Monday, July 6, 2009

What is Truth? (Christ and Pilate)

Title: What is Truth? (Christ and Pilate)

Artist: Nikolai Ge

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 233 x 171 cm

Date: 1890

Location: The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

After the Romans along with the temple police had arrested Jesus, he was brought before the Governor. He was questioned by Pontius Pilate who stated: “So you are a king,” And when Jesus replies that he was born into this world to tell the truth, Pilate asks “What is truth?” before pronouncing “I don’t find this man guilty of anything!” Some have held that this question of Pilate's was asked in scorn, but his conduct throughout the trial shows that he was impressed.

In the 1880s, the themes of Christ and the Gospels resurfaced in Ge’s work. Unlike the "new hero" figure portrayed by many of his contemporaries, however, the figure of Jesus in Ge's paintings reflects a deeper, personal psyche. What is Truth (Christ and Pilate) was removed from exhibition under pressure from the Church. Although Ge was inspired by genuine religious feeling, his mute, haggard Jesus offended some.

Nikolai Nikolayevich Ge (27 February 1831 – 13 June 1894), a Russian artist, was born into a noble family of French origin. His parents died when he was young and he was raised by his serf nurse, who taught him compassion for the humiliated and a keen sense of other people’s sorrows. Ge entered the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts in 1850, graduating in 1857 with a Major Gold Medal for his picture The Witch of Endor Calling up the Spirit of the Prophet Samuel. He traveled extensively over the next dozen years, finally settling in St. Petersburg in 1870 where he became one of the founders of the Peredvizhniki, the Society of Traveling Art Exhibitions.

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