Monday, March 1, 2010

Ecce Homo

Title: Ecce Homo

Artist: Honoré Daumier

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 162.5 x 130 cm

Date: c. 1851

Location: Museum Folkwang, Essen.

Mark 15:6-14 Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

"Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?" asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.

"What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?" Pilate asked them.

"Crucify him!" they shouted.

"Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!"

The custom at feast to release a prisoner is unattested to in the surviving historical record, but some scholars note that it would fit the culture of the time. A similar incident was recorded in 85 AD whereby a governor in Egypt handed someone over to the ‘multitudes’.

Daumier’s ‘Ecce Homo’, the largest canvas of the artist, strikes a very formal tone in its structure and its coloring. With anonymous masses pushing towards the judgment block, a bold foreshortening of the figures of Pilate and Jesus, from whom emanates a holy light, recalls Goya’s or Rembrant’s compositions. The figure of Christ, isolated against the opinions of the masses and the rulers, is a theme which speaks of Daumier’s view of the artist in society, especially in the 19th century.

Honoré Daumier (February 26, 1808 – February 10, 1879) was a French printmaker, caricaturist, painter, and sculptor, whose many works offer commentary on social and political life in France in the 19th century. A prolific draftsman who produced over 4000 lithographs, he was perhaps best known for satirical and political drawings in the magazines Caricature (1831-1835) and Charivari (from 1832). It was only in 1878 that Daumier presented himself to the public as a painter, with a wide range of works in an exhibition organized by Paul Durand-Ruel.

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