Édouard Manet
French, 1832–1883
Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers
1865

Oil on canvas
74 7/8 x 58 3/8 in. (190.8 x 148.3 cm)
Inscribed at lower right: Manet
Gift of James Deering, 1925.703

Throughout his career, Édouard Manet managed to shock the public with his bold brushwork, use of black pigment, rejection of half-tones, and unconventional subjects. Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers (one of only two religious paintings created in his entire career) is an exception within the 19th-century Realist movement. Under the influence of Gustave Courbet, avant-garde artists in France rarely pursued religious subjects, believing in painting only what they could see before them. In its large-scale and triangular composition, somber colors, and biblical subject matter, this rare religious picture contains echoes of both Renaissance and Baroque models, particularly of paintings by 17th-century Spanish artists such as Diego Velázquez and Francisco de Zurbaran, in whom Manet was interested.

Here, Manet depicts the moment when Christ’s captors mock the “king of the Jews” by crowning him with thorns and covering him with a purple robe. Unlike more traditional academic religious paintings that portrays Jesus as a divine, other-worldly being, the figures here are not idealized. Jesus is depicted as human and vulnerable, a man who has lost control over his own fate, awkwardly posed and unheroic in demeanor. The objectivity of this painting has been linked to an account of Christ’s life by the 19th-century French author Ernest Renan, whose The Life of Jesus attempted to reconstruct Jesus’ biography using only historical documents and verifiable facts. Because of its decidedly rebellious presentation of the subject, Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers was received at the 1865 Salon with an outburst of negative criticism.

Édouard Manet
French, 1832–1883
Fish (Still Life)
1864

Oil on canvas
28 7/8 x 36 1/4 in. (73.4 x 92.1 cm)
Signed lower right: Manet
Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Larned Coburn Memorial Collection, 1942.311

Manet completed numerous still lifes throughout his career. Some were independent canvases, such as this one, and some were still lifes within larger compositions, such as the whip used in the flagellation in the lower right-hand corner of Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers. This painting is part of a tradition of kitchen still lifes, consisting of food in the process of being prepared for the table, derived from 17th- and 18th-century Spanish and Flemish models and also from Manet’s French predecessor Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin. In Fish (Still Life), a foreshortened carp is accompanied by oysters, a crayfish, a lemon, and a large copper pot. Still lifes such as this one reveal Manet’s commitment to Realism in its unembellished, straightforward approach to humble “slices of life.” Through the artist’s painterly skill, a direct, immediate experience of the subject is offered up to the viewer, whose senses of sight, taste, and smell are stimulated by the arrangement of the raw food heaped on the table.

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