Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Christ Crowned with Thorns (Ecce Homo), and the Mourning Virgin

Adriaen Isenbrant (Netherlandish, active by 1510–died 1551 Bruges)
ca. 1530–40
Oil on canvas, transferred from wood
41 1/2 x 36 1/2 in. (105.4 x 92.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1904
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 639
In this austere and haunting image, Christ is depicted in the form of an Ecce Homo—presented to the people of Jerusalem by Pilate, the Roman prefect of Jerusalem, prior to being led off to be crucified.  He wears a crown of thorns and on his exposed torso bears the wounds from his flagellation. The hostile crowd, however, is omitted. Seen up close, in half-length and nearly life-size, Christ and his mother have been isolated for devotional contemplation. They are presented directly to the viewer, who becomes Christ's judge as well as a participant in the Virgin's grief.
Friedrich Lippmann, Berlin (until 1903); Dowdeswell & Dowdeswell, London (1903–4; sold to MMA)
Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," May 22–July 27, 1975, no. 18.

Moscow. State Pushkin Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," August 28–November 2, 1975, no. 18.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 22, 1998–February 21, 1999, no. 101.

F[rank] J[ewett] M[ather] J[r.]. "Sir C. Purdon Clarke in America." Art in America 7 (1905), p. 485, ascribes it to Jan Mostaert and notes that it has been transferred from wood.

C. M. Fitz Gerald. "Accessions: How They will be Treated in the Bulletin." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 1 (November 1905), p. 9, as by Mostaert.

Martin Conway. The Van Eycks and Their Followers. London, 1921, p. 304, as the work of Isenbrant, painted shortly after 1530, "in his most pretentious and least charming mood"; calls the figures "theatrical, artificial, and unconvincing".

John Cowper Powys. "A Masterpiece and a Controversy." Arts & Decoration 19, no. 6 (October 1923), pp. 38–39, ill., as by Isenbrant; defends this picture against Conway's criticism (see Ref. 1921).

Max J. Friedländer. Die altniederländische Malerei. Vol. 11, Die Antwerpener Manieristen; Adriaen Ysenbrant. Berlin, 1933, p. 138, no. 198, catalogues it with the works of Isenbrant.

Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 101–2, ill., as by Isenbrant; identifies the scene above the central column as Daniel and the Lion, a symbol of the Resurrection.

Julius S. Held. "Book Reviews: Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta M. Salinger . . ., 1947." Art Bulletin 31 (June 1949), p. 140, identifies the scene on the column as Samson, not Daniel, with the lion.

Erwin Panofsky. "Jean Hey's "Ecce Homo": Speculation about its Author, its Donor, and its Iconography." Bulletin Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts 5 (1956), pp. 116, 134 n. 64, p. 136 n. 73, fig. 22, discusses in depth the iconographic development of the subject of Christ as Ecce Homo; compares with our composition a woodcut of the Ecce Homo and Mater Dolorosa (fig. 29) which he ascribes to a French artist, 1st quarter of the 16th century.

Erik Larsen. Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York. Utrecht, 1960, p. 82.

Carla Gottlieb. "The Living Host." Konsthistorisk Tidskrift 40 (May 1971), pp. 39–40, fig. 11, discusses and illustrates iconographically similar works; identifies the building in the background as Christ's tomb and the figure with the lion on the column's capital as Daniel.

Max J. Friedländer et al. Early Netherlandish Painting. Vol. 11, The Antwerp Mannerists, Adriaen Ysenbrant. New York, 1974, p. 90, no. 198, pl. 144.

Sixten Ringbom. Icon to Narrative: The Rise of the Dramatic Close-up in Fifteenth-century Devotional Painting. rev. ed. Doornspijk, The Netherlands, 1984, p. 143 n. 6 [first published in Acta Academiae Aboensis, ser. A, Humaniora, 1965, vol. 31, no. 2, same page nos.], cites other examples of the fusion of the "Salvator coronatus" and "Virgo doloris" into a single composition, noting that here "the symbolic meaning of the column has been made explicit by the whip tied to it".

Susan Urbach. "Research Report on Examinations of Underdrawings in Some Early Netherlandish and German Panels in the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts II." Le dessin sous-jacent dans la peinture. Ed. Hélène Verougstraete-Marcq and Roger van Schoute. Colloque 8, Louvain-la-Neuve, 1991, p. 80.

Maryan W. Ainsworth and Véronique Sintobin in From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Maryan W. Ainsworth and Keith Christiansen. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1998, pp. 242, 321, 350, 374–77, no. 101, ill. (color, overall and detail), note that this panel reflects compositions of the subject by Dieric Bouts (such as MMA 71.156–57) as well as some that appear in illustrated Netherlandish prayer books of the sixteenth century; reproduce an example of the latter (fig. 112), a woodcut with a Dutch text emhasizing the Virgin's role as intercessor; observe that infrared-reflectography and x-radiography reveal that Christ was initially turned toward his mother as in the print, while an arrow or sword pierced her heart from the left—a motif, popularized after 1492, that refers to Mary as the Virgin of the Seven Sorrows; suggest that the MMA panel was originally conceived as one element in a continuous narrative program including each of the Seven Sorrows, but this was abandoned after the first stages in favor of a single Andachtsbild; date the panel about 1530–40 .

Susan Urbach. "An Unknown Netherlandish Diptych Attributed to the Master of the Holy Blood: A Hypothetical Reconstruction." Arte cristiana 95 (November/December 2007), pp. 432, 437 n. 28, fig. 6, mentions it in a discussion of panels with the same iconography, mostly in diptych format.

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