BOSCH, Hieronymus
(b. ca. 1450, 's-Hertogenbosch, d. 1516, 's-Hertogenbosch)

Christ Crowned with Thorns

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Oil on panel, 165 x 195 cm
Monasterio de San Lorenzo, El Escorial

Bosch's interpretation of the Passion scenes must have appealed to his contemporaries, for he reworked the London composition (Mocking of Christ) into a second version of the subject. Although the original painting is lost, it survives in no less than seven copies, a testimony to its popularity. This second composition, in turn, seems to have inspired the large, imposing Christ Crowned with Thorns in the Escorial, in which the figures have been adjusted to a circular field and placed against a gold ground.

Christ sits on a ledge in the immediate foreground, and, as before, his eyes engage the viewer. This time, however, his furrowed brow clearly expresses his suffering, and the static gestures of his captors in the earlier versions have been transformed into violent actions. A snarling rat-faced man rips off Christ's robe with a mailed fist; his smirking companion has placed one foot on the ledge in order to push the crown of thorns more tightly on his head, while a third man watches intently from behind the other two. In contrast, the two spectators on the left look on with cool detachment. This torment of Christ is given cosmic meaning in the grisaille border, where angels and devils are locked in unending conflict.