Italian paintings

Ecce homo

Andréa Mantegna
Isola di Carturo, around 1431 - Mantoue, 1506

Around 1500, oil on canvas, 54 x 42 cm
Italian Museum – Venetian Gallery

This painting by Andrea Mantegna is entitled Ecce homo, that is to say “Behold the man”. Pilate, prefect of the Roman province of Judea, uttered these words on presenting Christ crowned with thorns to the Jewish people. Christ is represented here from the head and shoulders, naked, covered with marks of flagellation, fists bound, with a rope wound around his neck and knotted at the front. He is framed by four people with sinister-looking expressions. The two in the foreground, fingers tensed on his shoulders, almost entirely hide the other two. Their horrible, grimacing faces with hooked noses and toothless mouths contrast with the face of Christ bearing suppressed and accepted pain. No elements appealing to piety are featured (traces of blood, muscular contractions), simply a face that is pale and registers dignified resignation.
Christ is depicted naked, which is very rare in scenes of “Ecce homo”.
The colour, set down in light scumble, has certain similarities with grisaille, accentuating the sculptural side of the figures.

These qualities and these daring gestures have resulted in this work being attributed to Mantegna, the great 15th century innovative painter from Northern Italy, friend of the humanists.

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