Pieter Paul Rubens

Crown of Thorns

Crown of Thorns
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Author: Pieter Paul Rubens
Painting, Oil on panel, 125.7x96.5 cm
Origin: Flanders, Before 1612

The Gospel According to John relates how Christ, after being scourged and beaten, is led forth to be shown to the people and for sentence to be pronounced. Pontius Pilate, who does not recognise Christ's guilt, gestures towards Christ, illustrating his words: "Ecce homo", or "Behold the man!" The crown of thorns and the deep red robe are mocking symbols of royal status, given to Jesus as a symbol of sarcastic respect, for his further humiliation. The Crown of Thorns dates from the early period of Rubens's career, when his work was characterised by a synthesis of very different influences. Jesus's pose, with the hands tied behind the back and torso thrust forward, is borrowed from the famous Antique sculpture of a Centaur, which Rubens drew in the Galleria Borghese in Rome. The centrally balanced composition, the faultless anatomy and the sculptural modelling of forms indicate that the artist had made careful study of monuments of Classical and Renaissance art. At the same time the painting technique and the tangibility of the metal helmet with its reddish reflections from the drapery indicate a great debt to the artist's native Flemish school. The lack of any outer exaltation in showing Christ's physical and spiritual sufferings give the image of the condemned man an heroic significance, emphasising his spiritual strength.

Personage: Christ
Style: Baroque
Source of entry: Museum of the Academy of Arts, Petrograd, 1922
Theme: The Bible and Christianity
Exibition: Flemish Art: 17th century

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