Catholic Artwork

Old images of Catholic Art (with some commentary)

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Our Favorite Lenten Image


Analysis of Antonio Ciseri’s Painting Ecce Homo


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We’ve found this image (Ecce Homo – Behold the Man) to be helpful for meditation on the Passion. One of the reasons it is such an aid is because it leaves much for the imagination. Specifically, we don’t see the faces of Jesus or Pilate from the front (as is usually the case in art). Instead, we have a view from the rear of the scene, as if from the view of a roman servant in waiting.

What pulls the eye in right away, of course, is the central scene of Pilate displaying Jesus to the Jews and saying ‘Behold the Man.’ Even if the title of this painting wasn’t “Ecce Homo,” it’s still simple to derive that this is indeed the moment the artwork captures. Notice the motion of Pilate’s arm, pointing towards Christ, the crown of thorns barely visible on Christ’s head, and the exposed back indicating the recent flagellation.

When the eye wanders more through the painting, it will notice the most visible face in the entire image: that of the woman on the right. The look of anguish on her face, her outstretched arm embracing her friend (or servant perhaps) for emotional support—all indicate that this figure would be none other than the wife of Pontius Pilate.

“And as he (Pontius Pilate) was sitting in the place of judgment, his wife sent to him, saying: Have thou nothing to do with that just man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.” Matt 27:19

If it was her explicit wish for her husband to have nothing to do with a just man, then her emotional pain displayed in the picture makes perfect sense. The moment Pilate begins to announce that he has tortured the Christ, her heart sinks as the realization truly sets in that her husband displayed cruelty to the just man, despite her warnings. She turns from his side and begins slowly withdrawing—the moment captured in this painting.

We can relate to the agony of Pilate’s wife by inserting how our own sins have caused the suffering of Jesus. The brilliance of the perspective of Pilate’s wife is that she, apparently, had no idea that Jesus was God or that he was dying for ours sins. If she had so much sorrow simply because she sensed that something was awry and unjust, imagine how great her sorrow could have been had she known the sublime and grim reality of what was happening before her eyes.


Download the high-resolution image of Ecce Homo




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