Manet's Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers represents a foray into religious imagery that was rare for the artist and his peers in the French avant-garde. It is in fact only one of only two major works on religious themes executed by Manet in the early 1860s.
In this striking work, Manet depicted the moment when Jesus’s captors taunt him by crowning him with thorns and covering him with a purple robe. According to the Gospel narratives, these soldiers then beat Jesus, but Manet portrays them as almost ambivalent as they surround his pale, stark figure. One gazes at him, one kneels in mock homage, and one holds the purple cloak in such a way as to suggest that he wishes to cover Christ’s nakedness, rather than strip him. This painting would have been shocking to viewers at the time because Christ’s figure is unheroic and unidealized, emphasizing him more as a man.
Image Credit: Édouard Manet. Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers, 1865. Gift of James Deering.