While Krishen Khanna's works usually represent the lives of the "ordinary and humble folk of the street," his artistic concerns often run deeper to address the more serious problems facing contemporary society. These works explored "larger universal issues of freedom and exploitation, of cruelty and persecution." (R. Bartholomew, 'Attitudes to the Social Condition, Notes on Krishen Khanna', Lalit Kala Contemporary 24-25, New Delhi, September 1977 - April 1978, p. 34.) This is exemplified in his paintings that recreate several scenes from the life of Christ, with frequent references to the betrayals he endured and the sacrifices he made.
As seen in European art, the Pieta has always signified a moment of immense sorrow, and is symbolic of the ultimate sacrifice. The present painting depicts the moment when Christ's dead body is lowered from the cross as he lies in the arms of a distraught Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene. Khanna's instinctive understanding for the emotionally charged scene is conveyed through the ladies' agitated hand gestures and pained facial expressions that are reflected in the gaunt and awkwardly angled body of Christ. He has captured the precise moment when "movement froze as a significant posture which could reveal the entire physical and psychological context of the human situation. " (R. Bartholomew, op. cit., p. 35.)
Khanna confirms that this is the second of four versions of the Pieta painted by him. Each painting captures a different mood, communicated through intuitive and deliberate variations in color, brushstroke and composition. The first version was painted in the 1960s. The current work was painted in India and personally taken by the artist to Copenhagen for Mr. Holck-Larsen.