Christ Mocked (c.1510)

Bosch, Hieronymus (c.1450-1516)

Christ Mocked (The Crowning with Thorns)
Oil on oak, 73.8 × 59 cm
National GalleryLondon

Christ stares calmly out at us from the heart of this picture, his serenity a vivid contrast to the brutality of his tormentors. At the back are two soldiers, one about to force the crown of thorns onto Christ’s head. In front two men kneel in mock homage; one seems about to tear off Christ’s robe.

This is the only painting of Christ mocked now known that can be attributed to Bosch, and its upright format is highly unusual. It can’t have been easy to imagine and Bosch clearly expended an enormous amount of effort on designing the picture, which is carefully structured through shape and colour. He toned down the violence of the scene: in the underdrawing (the preliminary outlining of the composition), the four men treat Christ with greater brutality. The changes make the picture more interesting and ambiguous: the men’s expressions are open to different interpretations. (NG)