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Hieronymus Bosch: 'Christ Mocked (The Crowning with Thorns)'

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Four torturers surround Christ, pressing towards him, while he looks out at us. Bosch's picture emphasises the contrast between the brutality of the tormentors and the mild, suffering Christ. Its emotional intensity is achieved in a variety of ways. The half-length figures create a sense of proximity, and the lack of recession in the painting makes it appear very claustrophobic. From the centre of the picture Christ seems to appeal to us to share in his suffering.

The characterisations here are not just grotesque, but reflect specific ideas. Christ's torturers were often referred to as savage beasts, which may explain why the man at the top right appears to wear a spiked dog collar. The figure at the lower left has a crescent moon of Islam and yellow star of the Jews on his head-dress, which mark him as an opponent of Christianity.

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