In this icon, Christ has been removed (or unnailed) from the cross and his body is being prepared for burial. Shown around the body, and mourning his death, are his mother, the Theotokos and Virgin Mary, John the beloved disciple, Joseph of Arimathea, and Mary Magdalene. Nicodemus and others may also be displayed.
Also, usually inscribed on the icon are the words of the troparion, "The Noble Joseph, taking down Thy most pure Body from the Tree, did wrap it in clean linen with sweet spices, and he laid it in a new tomb."
Enkomia (praise-songs) and threnoi (laments) are usually sung before the epitaphios. These epitaphios thrinos or lamentations are why the service is often referred to as the Lamentations service.