Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Week with Giotto – Good Friday, Early Morning, Mocking of Christ

“They stripped off his clothes
and threw a scarlet military cloak about him.
Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head,
and a reed in his right hand.
And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying,
“Hail, King of the Jews!”
They spat upon him and took the reed
and kept striking him on the head.”

(Matthew 27:28-30)

Giotto, Mocking of Christ
Italian, 1304-1306
Padua, Scrovegni/Arena Chapel

This scene takes place in the praetorium of Jerusalem’s Roman garrison, in a courtyard open to the sky.
Right side showing Pilate and 
group of men.

The Roman setting is implied not only by the courtyard setting, but by the interesting inclusion of a sub-Saharan African in the very center of the composition. A clean shaven Pilate appears at the right, conversing with a group of bearded men, who presumably are members of the Sanhedrin.

While Giotto is clearly following the Gospel text in what the Romans are doing, he does depart in one aspect. Instead of the “scarlet military cloak” he has clothed Jesus in a bejeweled cloak worthy of an emperor. This harks back to an earlier, medieval tradition of representing the crucified Christ as a king, rather than as a suffering man. Giotto stands somewhat at the crossroads between these two visual traditions. Going forward, the emotive characteristics associated with Jesus as sufferer, rather than Jesus as victor, became dominant in the art of the West.
Left side showing jeweled cloak.

Again, this painting appears to have been executed by an assistant. However, this assistant seems to be a bit more comfortable with Giotto’s revolutionary style than the assistant who worked on the “Christ Before Caiaphas”. His characters inhabit the space more comfortably, though they are still a trifle “wooden”, and there is less interest in minute details. There are also a few small difficulties in presenting some details in perspective (see, for example, Pilate’s foot at the right side of the picture).

© M. Duffy, 2011