Christ, bound and crowned with thorns, is condemned to be crucified by Pontius Pilate. ‘Ecce Homo’ (‘Behold the man’) were the words used by Pilate when he presented Christ to the people before the Crucifixion (John 19: 2–5). Pilate, wearing a turban, raises his hand to indicate that he is speaking. The Virgin Mary swoons and is supported by Saint John the Evangelist. The soldier on the right may be Longinus, the Roman centurion who recognised Christ’s divinity at the Crucifixion. This is an old copy of the original Ecce Homo by Correggio, also in the National Gallery’s collection.
This is an old copy of the original Ecce Homo by Correggio, also in the National Gallery’s collection. Christ is shown bound and crowned with thorns at the moment when he is condemned to be crucified by Pontius Pilate.
In the New Testament, ‘Ecce Homo’ (‘Behold the man’) were the words used by Pilate when he presented Christ to the people before the Crucifixion (John 19: 2–5). Pilate, wearing a turban, stands in the background, his hand in a rhetorical gesture to indicate that he is speaking. Correggio’s Pilate seems to derive from the print of the same subject in Dürer’s engraved Passion (British Museum, London).
Christ’s mother, the Virgin Mary, swoons and is supported by Saint John the Evangelist, wearing his traditional colours of red and green. The soldier to the right looks at Christ with an expression of respect tinged with love, as though conversion is dawning on him. He may be Longinus, the centurion who recognised Christ’s divinity when he was on the Cross.
During Correggio’s time, it was common in paintings of this subject to put the viewer in the place of the crowd who condemned him to death – the position we occupy here, as guilty participants in the torment of Christ. However, the swooning Virgin is not mentioned in the Gospel accounts of this episode and is not usually represented. She scrapes her nails along the parapet as she falls backwards, a detail unique to Correggio’s composition.
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