Friday, March 29, 2013

The Second Sorrowful Mystery – The Scourging At The Pillar

Luca Signorella, Scourging of Christ
Italian, ca.  1480
Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera

"Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged."
Gospel for Good Friday, the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to John
(John 19:1)

The Gospel of John is the only one of the Four Gospels that actually says that Pilate had Jesus scourged. The three Synoptic Gospels imply that something like this happened, either at the hands of the Romans under Pontius Pilate or at the hands of the Jewish Temple guards, who first arrested Him. They make references to rough treatment or say that Pilate said that he would have Jesus flogged. Nevertheless, Christian tradition affirms that Jesus suffered the horrific torture of scourging.

Roman Flagrum

We now know from archaeological evidence that much of what tradition says is actually true to the period. We have evidence that includes the skeleton of a crucified man who had been nailed to a cross through the feet, just like Jesus was (see discussion here), and we have plenty of evidence for the terrible whips, the flagrum (plural: flagra) used by the Roman army.

These vicious instruments, multiple strand whips to which hard pieces of metal or other materials were added, were intended to inflict as much damage as possible, ripping skin at times. The name flagrum is related to the verb “to flay”, which means to remove the skin from. We know that they existed and that they were used for discipline and for punishment.

The representation of the Scourging, sometimes also called “Christ At The Column”, is one that seems to have remained pretty much unchanged through the centuries, although there are some interesting variations. The scene generally consists of the figure of Christ, bound to a column, flanked by two tormentors. Other figures may or may not appear in the scene. Occasionally, Pilate may appear as well.
Miniatures of the Life of Christ
France, probably Corbie, ca. 1175
New York, Morgan Library
MS M 44, fol. 8v
In the Gothic period, when the image first seems to appear, the scene almost resembles a courtly dance rather than a true scene of torture.
Psalter of St. Louis and Blanche of Castille
France (Paris), ca. 1225
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Arsenal 1186, fol. 23v

Livre d'images de Madame Marie
Belgium (Hainaut), ca.1285-1290
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquistion francaise 16251, fol. 36
I find this image interesting in that someone at sometime has taken their feelings out on the
faces of Christ's tormentors.
Jean Le Noir, Petites heures de Jean Duc de Berry
France (Paris), ca. 1375
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 18014, fol. 83v

Lorenzo Ghiberti
Italian, 1403
Florence, Baptistry Doors
Piero della Francesca
Italian, ca. 1455
Urbino, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche

However, as time progressed, the levels of violence and cruelty depicted increase, even though the composition of the figures remains basically unchanged.

Sebastiano del Piombo
Italian, 1516-1524
Rome, Church of San Pietro in Montorio

Albrecht Altdorfer
German, 1518
Sankt Florian bei Linz, Augustinian Abbey

Joerg Ratgeb
German, 1518-1519
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie
Although the central image is the Scourging, this picture includes multiple scenes from the Passion
Following on from the work of the Venetian painter, Titian, the violence reached a crescendo with the work of Caravaggio (another north Italian) and his followers at the beginning of the 17th century. The tormentors in these paintings really get into their work. Following this there was a diminuendo to a more restrained approach thereafter.

Italian, ca. 1560
Rome, Borghese Gallery
Italian, ca. 1607
Naples, Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte

Peter Paul Rubens
Ghent, Museum voor Schone Kunsten

Italian, 1657
Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica
Pierre Subleyras
French, No Date (Died 1749)
Montauban, Musée Ingres

James Tissot, Scourging on the Back
French, 1886-1894
New York, Brooklyn Museum
James Tissot, Scourging on the Front
French, 1886-1894
New York, Brooklyn Museum
There is an offshoot of the Scourging, found in the realm of devotional iconography. These images begin to appear in the North, where devotional images often originate.  They depict the aftermath of the scourging, showing the wounded, bleeding Jesus.
Hans Memling
Flemish, 1485-1490
Barcelona, Coleccion Mateu
It also became very popular in 17th-century Spain, where artists imagined the exhausted, wounded Christ being prayerfully contemplated by both angels and humans.

Diego Velazquez, Christ Contemplated by the Christian Soul
Spanish, 1628-1629
London, National Gallery

Bartolome Murillo, Christ After the Scourging
Spanish, After 1665
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts

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