The Pietà or lamentation over the dead Christ is not a scene from the Gospels. Rather, it was a medieval invention that translated the pathos of the Passion into a picture, an image to elicit an emotional response from the worshipper.
The Virgin, Saint John the Evangelist, and Mary Magdalene have assembled at Christ's tomb and hold up his gray, lifeless body against the marble sarcophagus. Behind them is the dark mouth of the rock cut tomb, and beyond it opens a verdant river landscape. Moretto has frozen the mourners in their awkward poses, their strain fueling the anguished pitch of the image. By contrast, the disposition of Christ's body is almost balletic. It stands out pale against the deep colors of the mourners' robes. Moretto's palette is rich but acerbic, darkening to iron-gray in the shadows.
Although Moretto had absorbed the styles of the Venetians, especially their brilliant experiments with color and light, this intensely emotional Pietà, which must have been intended as an altarpiece, could only have been created in the sincere religious atmosphere of a provincial site like Brescia, so distant in spirit from the secular, cosmopolitan city of Venice.