Title: Christ before Herod Antipas
Artist: Nicolaus Knüpfer
Medium: Oil on Panel
Size: 46 x 61 cm
Location: Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest
Luke 23:8-12: When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.
Christ being sent to Herod Antipas for judgement is an episode that occurs only in the Gospel of Luke. Herod would have had heard many things of Jesus in Galilee, where his miracles had for a great while been all the talk of the country; and he longed to see him, not for any affection he had for him or his doctrine like Zacchaeus, but purely out of curiosity. He hoped to see some miracle done by him, but Jesus would not gratify him with the performance of even a single miracle. The poorest beggar that asked a miracle for the relief of his necessity was never denied; but this proud prince, that asked a miracle merely for his own amusement, is denied. Herod thought, now that he had him in bonds, he might command a miracle, but to Jesus miracles must not be made cheap, nor Omnipotence be at the beck of any earthly potentate.
Nicolaus Knüpfer (ca. 1603 - 1655) was a Dutch painter of German origin. After initial training in Leipzig and elsewhere, in 1630 Knüpfer moved to Utrecht, where he studied with Mannerist painter Abraham Bloemaert. Knüpfer specialised in history paintings, producing works based on stories from the Bible, from Greek and Roman history and from mythology. In his own day, Knüpfer enjoyed considerable fame and was frequently commissioned by patrons. Typical of his style is the loose brushwork, the liveliness of the depictions and the rich palette, all of which can be seen in this painting of Christ before Herod Antipas. The wall with the low door, closing off the space, looks like a stage set. The curtains and the stage raised by three steps on the right and extending to the plane of the painting are theatrical. The king, leaning back on his throne, is shrieking with laughter and the soldier on one knee, dressing Jesus in a white mantle, has his back to us. His hulking comrade, leaning on his stave, calls through the door to recruit more spectators for Jesus' derision.