Most art historians agree that the “Deposition of Christ” inside the Volterra Cathedral (or ‘Duomo’), in the province of Pisa, was created in the second half of the 13th century.
Similar groups of wooden sculptures were very popular in Central Italy in the 1200s, but the one in Volterra is indubitably the best preserved, maintaining the original colors, ladder (on which Joseph of Arimathea is climbing), and nails (pulled out with pliers by Nicodemus).
In the same years in which unknown artists created this work, Jacopone da Todi wrote his “Donna de Paradiso”, in which the story of the Passion of Christ is told by the people who witnessed it. Mary, in the poet’s verses, speaks to her son and says,
Figlio bianco e biondo, / figlio volto iocondo, / figlio, perché t’à el mondo, / figlio, cusì sprezzato? / Figlio dolc’e placente, / figlio de la dolente, / figlio àte la gente / mala mente trattato (“My son, fair and laughing, / with your white face and blond hair, / why has the world despised you? / My son, sweet and pleasing, / son of my awful sorrow, / people have treated you / so vey badly!”).
The Franciscan friar’s lyric still offers the most moving description of the scene captured by this extraordinary work.