Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Rome Journal: Mantegna's "Ecce Homo" at the Barbarini

“Ecce Homo,” “behold the man” are the words Pontius Pilate uttered at Christ’s crucifixion. It’s also the title of a famous work by Nietzsche. Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is was one of the last works the German philosopher wrote before losing his mind. Caravaggio also painted an "Ecce Homo," (c. 1605-6 or 1609) but what was Mantegna thinking when he painted his “Ecce Homo” (c.1500), a Christ figure surrounded by those who were to carry out the final judgment? Christ is humanized and is plainly a man amongst men rather than the visitor who would be resurrected. Here's a vision of Christ that might remind some filmgoers of the neorealist figure Pasolini depicted in the Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)Mantegna's "Lamentation of Christ" also informed one of the central scenes of Pasolini's Mamma Roma (1961). By humanizing both Christ and his executioners, Mantegna is creating an almost political figure, a voice for the good in the earthly as well as heavenly realm. Commenting on the placement of the figures in the painting, the curator, Michele Di Monte remarks: "...the painting does not depict the typical scene of Pilate presenting Christ to the people...On the contrary, here it is the scribes and Pharisees who present the condemned man to Pilate, clamoring for his death. But in so doing they present, in fact, Christ to the beholder, who finds himself in the difficult 'position' of the judge who must decide or wash his hands." You can see “Ecce Homo” along with “Madonna and Child with St. Jerome and St Louis of Toulouse” (1455) in "La Stanza Di Mantegna," Masterworks from the Musee Jacquemart-Andre, currently on exhibit at the Barbarini.

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