Sunday, March 20, 2011

Christ Presented to the People

Title: Christ Presented to the People
Artist: Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
Medium: Drypoint on paper
Size: 39.1 x 45.4 cm
Date: 1655
Location: Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis.

John 18:28-40 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” They replied, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” They objected: “But we have no right to execute anyone.” This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die. Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus asked, “Is that your own idea, or did others talk to you about me?” Pilate replied, ““Am I a Jew? Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” Pilate said, “You are a king, then!” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Pilate retorted “What is truth?” With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

Silhouetted by a dark arch, the three protagonists, Pontius Pilate, Christ, and Barabbas, stand on the podium before a large civic building. Rembrandt captures the moment when Pilate, pointing towards Christ, asks the assembles crowd the question: "What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They all shout back, "Let Him be crucified!" Surrounded by an extraordinary architectural setting, soldiers, and the surge of the crowd below him, Christ looks helpless and isolated. This is one of Rembrandt's most celebrated prints because of its size, rarity, and complex composition. It is one of the few that Rembrandt did exclusively in drypoint, a process in which a sharp point is used to scratch a line directly into the copperplate.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (July 1606 – October 1669) was a Dutch painter and etcher. He is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history, his work contributing to a period that historians call the Dutch Golden Age. Rembrandt produced etchings for most of his career, from 1626 to 1660, when he was forced to sell his printing-press and virtually abandoned etching. Only the troubled year of 1649 produced no dated work. Despite Rembrandt's financial success as an artist, teacher, and art dealer, his penchant for ostentatious living forced him to declare bankruptcy in 1656.

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