Sunday, February 28, 2010

Christ before Pilate

Title: Christ before Pilate

Artist: Hans Multscher

Medium: Panel

Size: 148 x 140 cm

Date: 1437

Location: Staatliche Museen, Berlin.

Mark 15:1-5 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

"Are you the king of the Jews?" asked Pilate.

"You say so." Jesus replied.

The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, "Aren't you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of."

But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

The whole of the Sanhedrin, depicted as a grotesque menagerie in this panel, had obviously accused Jesus of declaring himself Messiah, “King of the Jews”. Such a declaration could easily lead to a charge of sedition and treason against the Emperor. Some scholars have pointed out that When Pilate asks Jesus "Are you the king of the Jews?" we should probably hear a mocking emphasis on the word “you”. Would Pilate really believe a bound and beaten Jewish peasant was claiming the be king? Conversely, we should probably hear Jesus’ response with an equally mocking emphasis on the same word : “You say so”.

This panel is one of several making up the Wurzach Altarpiece by Hans Multscher (ca. 1400, Reichenhofen/Allgau, d. 1467, Ulm), considered among the most important 15th-century German paintings. Multscher was a German sculptor active in Ulm, who was trained in the Netherlands or northern France. Paintings were integral to his altarpieces, but it is a matter for debate to what extent he practiced painting himself. The Wurzach altar, the only painting attributed to him by some experts, exhibits a realism nearer to contemporary Flemish rather than German painting.

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