Rogier van der Weyden was born in, what is now, the Belgium town of Tournai around 1399. His name at that time was actually Rogier de le Pasture which literally translated meant Roger of the Pasture. His father Henri de le Pasture was a knife manufacturer. At the age of 26 he married Elisabeth Goffaert, the daughter of a Brussels shoemaker, and they had four children. In 1436 he was given the position of stadsschilder, (painter to the town), of Brussels, a post especially created for him. It was whilst living in Brussels, which was then a Dutch-speaking town, he began to use the Dutch version of his name: Rogier van der Weyden.
Today’s painting, The Descent from the Cross, was the centre panel of an altarpiece, of which the wings are lost, created by Rogier van der Weyden around 1436. It can be found in the Prado, Madrid. The painting depicts the lifeless body of Christ being lowered down from the cross. The painting was commissioned by the Greater Guild of Crossbowmen of Leuven and was installed in the Chapel of Our Lady Without the Walls which was demolished in 1798.
The main figures in the painting are, to the right, Mary Magdalen with her fingers entwined. To the left of her, is Nicodemus, wearing a black hat and a gold-coloured robe. At the centre of the picture is Joseph of Arimathea, wearing a brown skull cap, who can be seen supporting the body of Christ. Mary Salome another half sister of the Virgin Mary, dressed in green, is to the left of the body of Christ seen supporting Mary. On the left of the picture, dressed in a red robe, and also supporting the Virgin Mary is St John the Evangelist.