Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
- Bartolomé Estebán Murillo
- Ecce Homo
- oil on canvas
- 63.7 x 53.3 cm.; 25 1/8 x 21 in.
The Reverend Richard Ridgeway Parry Mealy (1801–1870), Perfeddgoed, Bangor;
His posthumous sale, London, Christie's, 11 June 1870, lot 113, for 130 guineas, to Colnaghi;
With Colnaghi, London;
Sir Francis Cook, 1st Bt, Visconde de Monserrate (1817–1901), Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey, by 1883, recorded in the Organ Room;
By descent to his son Sir Frederick Cook, 2nd Bt (1844–1920), Doughty House;
By descent to his son Sir Herbert Cook, 3rd Bt (1868–1939), Doughty House;
By descent to his son Sir Francis Cook, 4th Bt (1907–78), Doughty House and Cothay Manor, Somerset;
Thence by inheritance to his wife Brenda, Lady Cook;
By whom sold ('Property Sold at the Direction of Brenda, Lady Cook'), London, Christie's, 8 December 2005, lot 19;
Where acquired by the present owner.
Leamington Spa, Royal Art Gallery, Re-opening Exhibition of Oil Paintings from the Cook Collection, 28 July – 30 August and 21 September – 15 November 1947, no. 14.
A.L. Mayer, Murillo, Des Meisters Gemälde, Stuttgart–Berlin 1913, p. 295, reproduced p. 183 (as 1675–82);
Abridged Catalogue of the Pictures at Doughty House, Richmond, belonging to Sir Frederick Cook Bart., Visconde de Monserrate, London 1907, p. 25, no. 22, in the Organ Room;
M.W. Brockwell, A Catalogue of the Paintings at Doughty House, Richmond, and Elsewhere in the Collection of Sir Frederick Cook, Bt., 3 vols, English, French, Early Flemish, German and Spanish Schools, vol. III, London 1915, p. 160, no. 523, reproduced (as displayed in the Organ Room, no. 21: 'clearly a very late work, as we may judge from the soft tonality and atmospheric effects');
M.W. Brockwell, 'The Cook Collection Part III', Connoisseur, vol. L, January 1918, p. 9;
A.L. Mayer, Murillo, Des Meisters Gemälde, Stuttgart–Berlin–Leipzig 1923, p. 299, reproduced p. 189 (as 1675–82);
M.W. Brockwell, Abridged Catalogue of the Pictures at Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey, in the Collection of Sir Herbert Cook, Bart, London 1932, p. 58, no. 523 (21);
J. Gaya Nuño, L'opera completa di Murillo, Milan 1978, p. 112, no. 290 (dated to 1675–80, 'forse dalla racolta del duca di Villahermosa');
D. Angulo Iñiguez, Murillo, Madrid 1981, vol. II, p. 221, no. 253, reproduced in black and white, vol. III, plate 329 (where dated to 1665–75);
E. Valdivieso, Murillo. Catalogo Razanado de Pinturas, Madrid 2010, p. 436, no. 245 (with incorrect sale date), reproduced in colour as a detail on p. 179 and on p. 436 (as about 1660–70).
Manuel Alegre, Madrid, 1798 (dedicated to the Duque de Villahermosa).
The Ecce Homo is an image devoid of narrative context and yet rich in meaning. Taken from Saint John’s account of The Passion in his Gospel, the words of the title ‘Behold the Man!’ are those of Pontius Pilate, spoken after Christ had been scourged and mocked. Christ wears the emblems of kingship with which He is scorned – the crown of thorns, a red cloak and the reed sceptre. In painting Christ’s downcast gaze Murillo captures not only His humiliation but also a sense of quiet reflection and patient endurance. In this depiction of introspection the artist succeeds with admirable understatement in conveying Christ’s resignation to His fate.
Several versions of the subject exist; none of them surpass this in quality. Writing in his catalogue raisonné of the artist’s paintings, Angulo praised the painting as the best example of the composition and dated it to about 1665–1675. Enrique Valdivieso also considers this painting to be the best of the half-length Ecce Homos known today, and dates it slightly earlier to about 1660–70. Thought to have been conceived with a pendant, the Ecce Homo was originally paired with a Mater Dolorosa, known today only through other versions and copies that attest to the composition’s success. One example of a pair to have survived intact, formerly in the Spanish royal collection, is now at the Prado, Madrid.1 No companion to this painting has been identified and its pendant is lost.
Among Murillo’s other autograph adaptations of the subject is a painting in the El Paso Museum of Art, Texas, in which Murillo has modified the figure of Christ in a three-quarter length treatment of the Ecce Homo, a canvas dated by Angulo to around 1675.2
The combination of Christ’s tangible reality with a visionary other-worldliness made Murillo’s interpretations of religious images immensely appealing. The soft tonality, restricted palette and plain background of the Ecce Homo create an atmosphere of spiritual intensity. Murillo’s ability to manipulate paint reflects his admiration for Titian and Rubens, whose work he would have seen in Madrid when he visited there in 1658. His Ecce Homo is a response to the Venetian master’s treatment of the same subject of 1546; today at the Prado, it once hung in the Royal Palace of the Alcázar in Madrid, where Murillo may have seen it with its companion piece, a Mater Dolorosa.
An engraving of this painting by Manuel Alegre, dated 1798, supports the suggestion that the Ecce Homo had a pendant and sheds light on the history of the painting’s ownership. The engraving of the Ecce Homo (printed in reverse to the painting) was paired with an image of the Mater Dolorosa, also by Alegre and also dated 1798. Both Alegre’s engravings have dedicatory inscriptions to the Duque de Villahermosa, the earliest recorded owner of this painting.
It is not yet known how some decades later in the nineteenth-century the Ecce Homo came to be in the collection of The Rev. Richard Ridgeway Parry Mealy (1801–1870) but its subsequent history in the Cook collection is well documented. The 1932 catalogue of the pictures at Doughty House describes the forty-six Spanish works assembled there by that date. In illustrious company, Murillo’s Ecce Homo was displayed in the Organ Room alongside Spanish masterpieces that included works by Velázquez – foremost among them An old woman cooking eggs, now in Edinburgh at the National Gallery of Scotland; his Portrait of the jester Calabazas (Cleveland Museum of Art); and El Greco’s Christ cleansing the Temple (National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC).3
1. P 965 and P 977; both oil on canvas, each: 52 x 41 cm. Angulo 1981, vol. II, pp. 219–20; vol. III, reproduced plates 331 and 332.
2. 1961.1.54; oil on canvas, 85.7 x 78.7 cm. Angulo 1981, vol. II, pp. 217–18; vol. III, reproduced pl. 391.
3. Brockwell 1932, pp. 54–60.