Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers

Large, dark painting of Jesus sitting with three standing soldiers
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • Large, dark painting of Jesus sitting with three standing soldiers

Date:

1865

Artist:

Édouard Manet
French, 1832–1883

About this artwork

Throughout his career, Édouard Manet managed to shock and confound the public with his bold technique and unorthodox approach to subject matter. The most startling feature of his great religious composition Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers is that it was painted at all. After the advent of the Realist movement in earlier nineteenth-century French painting, grounded in the here and now, avant-garde artists in France did not pursue religious themes. Yet, while Manet was most certainly a painter of secular subjects—indeed, he was particularly urbane in his themes and lifestyle—he was also interested in the biblical narratives that had compelled artists for many centuries. It is likely that there was a connection between this interest and the popular 1863 biography Vie de Jésus (Life of Jesus) by the French philosopher and historian Joseph-Ernest Renan, a controversial work that emphasizes Christ’s humanity.

In this painting, Manet portrayed Jesus as very human and vulnerable by presenting him frontally; by making him seem passive, almost limp; and by surrounding him with rather gruff characters. The canvas’s visible brushstrokes and its almost monochromatic tonality create an insistent sense of materiality that further evokes a palpable, unidealized Christ. The work depicts the moment when Jesus’s captors mock the “King of the Jews” by crowning him with thorns and covering him with a robe. Although, according to the Gospel story, this taunting was followed by beatings, Manet’s soldiers appear ambivalent as they surround the pale, denuded figure. In these ways Manet managed to present a traditional subject in a contemporary, challenging light.

On View

European Painting and Sculpture, Gallery 222

Artist

Édouard Manet

Title

Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers

Origin

France

Date

1865

Medium

Oil on canvas

Inscriptions

Inscribed at lower right: Manet

Dimensions

74 7/8 × 58 3/8 in. (190.8 × 148.3 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of James Deering

Reference Number

1925.703

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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