This painting is a half-length copy after the work by the Flemish artist, Quinten Massys, that hangs today in the Doge's Palace in Venice, painted in 'circa' 1528–29.1
The title 'Ecce Homo' ('Behold the Man') derives from the words of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who oversaw Christ's Crucifixion, on presenting Christ to the Jews after he had been mocked by soldiers. The theme was habitually treated by artists in two ways, either as a devotional image in which Christ is represented alone, crowned with thorns, or - as here - in a narrative setting, showing the other figures in the drama, including Pilate (on the left), who gestures towards Christ to illustrate his words, and the soldiers, who have dressed Christ ironically as a king, with the crown of thorns and a purple cloak.
This composition depicts only the upper half of Massys' design, and omits the architecture and sky pictured in the original behind the figures. Massys' painting is the last of three versions of the subject that he executed. His earliest depiction is part of a 'Passion altarpiece', today in the Museu Machado de Castro, in Coimbra, Spain, datable to 1514–17; the other painting is in the Prado, Madrid.2 In these two versions the scene is captured from below, with the crowd baying at Christ on Pilate's balcony. The present composition, however, does away with the balustrade – the viewer is directly confronted by the figures, and consequently made a participant in the drama.
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