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Christ crowned with thorns
17th Century
Christ crowned with thorns
[Ecce Homo]
Oil on canvas
163 x 116 cm  [HxW]
Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant'Angelo, Roma

With extraordinary creativity in his approach to the subject, Baglione created a devotional painting disengaged from the episodes referred to in the Gospels. The painter portrays the principal moments of the Passion, the death, and the resurrection of Christ in a single view. And he clearly shows the amazement and reverential fear that this mystery produces in man: in the half-light, a figure stripped to the waist steps forward to raise a corner of the cloth which hides the face of Christ. We see the expression of Jesus which shows us that he is suffering, but still alive. The drape, which might have looked like a death shroud, now appears to be transformed into the lower part of a cape which recalls the iconography of the monarch seated on the throne.

The painter recalls the Passion with a number of symbols: in the foreground we see the column of the flagellation, the nails, the hammer and pincers, the rope, the leather strap, and the cross. Christ is seated on the edge of a sarcophagus and bears the crown of thorns, his hands still tied and resting on a “cornerstone”. The mockery he was subjected to is referred to by the sceptre-like cane, while the presence of the sarcophagus points to the moment following the resurrection.

The daring composition of the image places Jesus at the centre, leaning towards the right to counterbalance the figure of the man on the left. The dramatic chiaroscuro of the picture is reminiscent of the most innovative currents in early 17th-century Rome and places the painter within the sphere of influence of Caravaggio. For Jesus’ face, on the other hand, Baglione takes his inspiration from developments in the Carracci school, and from Guido Reni in particular. Even so, he renders Christ’s features in more normal proportions and expressions, without adopting the classical ideal.

Kristina Hermann Fiore

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