This small panel originally formed part of the predella of an altarpiece Raphael painted for the convent of Sant’Antonio in Perugia. The main panel depicting the Virgin and Child enthroned and surrounded by saints is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, which also owns a panel from the predella. Other parts of the predella are in the National Gallery, London, and the Dulwich Picture Gallery. The altarpiece is a youthful work by Raphael, done at a time when he was emerging as a rival to Perugino, who had been a strong influence on him.
In this painting, Raphael arranged six figures in an easily read composition, each figure varied in action but united in sympathetic attention to the dead Christ. Saint John and the Virgin Mary tenderly support Christ in the center on a slightly elevated grassy mound. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who brought Christ down from the cross, stand behind to frame the group. At the right, Mary Magdalene kneels to kiss Christ’s foot. Even in this early work, Raphael imbues his figures with the empathy and sweetness beloved in his later paintings.
Source: Richard Lingner, "Pietà," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 77