Thursday, April 5, 2012

Meditation on the Passion – The Ecce Homo

Maarten van Heemskerck, "Ecce Homo"
Central panel of triptych
Dutch, 1559-1560
Haarlem, Frans Halsmuseum

Once more Pilate went out and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you,
so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.”
So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak.
And he said to them, “Behold, the man!
(John 1:4-5) Excerpt from the Passion of Jesus Christ According to John

In the Latin Vulgate the final sentence in the excerpt from John, above, reads “Et dicit eis, “Ecce homo!” It is from these final words that another type of image, which meditates on the Passion of Christ, takes its name. This is the image known as “Ecce Homo”, which occurs in several variations.

The first, and most obvious, is an image that describes the Gospel event. Jesus and Pilate appear together, frequently on a balcony or terrace, in front of a group or crowd of people. Jesus wears the crown of thorns and a red cloak (not usually a purple one). Sometimes He is shown with a reed that appears to have been thrust into his manacled hands, so that one cannot say that He is actually holding it. He often appears highly bloodied from the scourging.

Examples of this type abound, especially in Northern Europe.   Among them are:
Guillaume Hugueniot, "Ecce Homo"
from a Book of Hours
Flemish, 1460-1475
New York, Morgan Library
MS G55, fol. 35r

Heironymous Bosch, Ecce Homo
Flemish, 1475-1480
Frankfurt, Stadaesches Kunstinstitut

Master of the Dark Eyes, "Ecce Homo"
from a Book of Hours
Dutch, ca. 1490
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliothek
MS 76 G 9, 62v

Jan Joest von Kalkar, "Ecce Homo"
German, 1508
Kalkar (Cleves), Catholic Parish of St. Nicholas

Quentin Massys, "Ecce Homo"
Flemish, ca. 1515
Madrid, Prado Museum

Simon Bening, "Ecce Homo"
from the Da Costa Hours
Flemish (Bruges), 1510-1520
New York, Morgan Library
MS M 399, 70v

Titian, "Ecce Homo"
Italian, 1543
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum

Another type is more intimate. It shows a usually half-length Christ surrounded by mocking faces. Pilate may or may not be there.
Bernardino Luini, "Ecce Homo"
Italian, ca. 1515-1516
Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz Museum
Correggio, "Ecce Homo"
Italian, 1525-1530
London, National Gallery of Art

Cigoli (Lodovico Cardi), "Ecce Homo"
Italian, 1607
Florence, Pitti Palace

In a third type, which also seems to be the latest type to be developed, the mood is even more intimate. The subsidiary figures have vanished and we are confronted with the figure of Jesus in what could be described as a “close up”. Jesus is usually shown in half-length, or even as a bust. We are brought close to His thorn-crowned face.
"Ecce Homo" from a Missal
South German, 1430-1440
London, British Library
MS Harley 2855, fol. 3v
Titian, "Ecce Homo"
Italian, 1548
Madrid, Prado

Guido Reni, "Ecce Homo"
Italian, 1639-1640
Paris, Musee du Louvre

Valdes-Leal, "Ecce Homo"
Spanish, 1657-2659
Private Collection

Occasionally, we are shown a variation on one of the themes. For example, Philippe de Champaigne confronts us with a full-length figure, without additional figures.

Philippe de Champaigne, "Ecce Homo"
French, 1654
Magny-les-Hameaux, Musee du Port-Royal des Champs 
The mood is quiet, He appears to be waiting. And, while He waits, blood flows from His wounds to the pavement in front of him. Like the third, close up, group of images, this image invites us to consider the causes and effects of the Passion, which are our own sins and weaknesses.

© M. Duffy, 2012

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