Christ with the Crown of Thorns
Oil and gold leaf on panel
Purchase made possible by gifts from Olivia H. and John O. Parker, Class of 1958; the Mrs. Harvey P. Hood W'18 Fund; Mr. and Mrs. A. Brooks Parker III, Class of 1955; and the Friends of the Museum; P.986.67
Albrecht Bouts lived in Leuven (now Belgium), where he specialized in ecclesiastical and private religious pictures. This painting followed a model often repeated by the artist, his father, Dirck (about 1410-1475), and their studios. It expressed a new vision of the humanity and suffering of Christ through the fusion of two traditional modes of representation: the Salvador Mundi, a triumphal image of Christ as the Savior of the World, and the Man of Sorrows, a devotional image of the dead Christ displaying the wounds of his Passion. The work acknowledges the suffering of Jesus, who, in response, raised his hand in blessing. A study done in 1938 documented the existence of forty-three other examples of this type from the Bouts circle, thirty-four of which were single images of Christ and the remaining nine paired with images of the Virgin and Child.
Encircling Christ’s head are the Latin words Attendite et videte si est dolor similis sicut dolor meus (“Look and see if there is a sorrow like my sorrow”), from a devotional prayer popularized in northern Europe in the early fifteenth century. According to John Hand of the National Gallery of Art, the inscribed halo is highly unusual in this region during the late 1400s and early 1500s. Another unique aspect of this painting can be seen in the photograph below, taken in raking light, which helps to highlight repairs to previous scratches on the face. The eyes and mouth are typically considered the clearest and most obvious indications of the vitality of the represented figure, and thus they are often mutilated to remove the signs of life. This damage is characteristic of the iconoclasm practiced in northern Europe during the Reformation in the sixteenth century. Some Protestant reformers at this time argued that Christians should concentrate on religious worship in prayer, music, and congregational fellowship without the distraction of intermediate art forms.
Last Updated: 7/9/09