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

Christ Mocked (Crowning with Thorns)

Oil on wood, 73 x 59 cm
National Gallery, London

Bosch painted a group of half-length Passion scenes. The earliest example most probably is the Christ Crowned with Thorns in London. The large, firmly modelled figures are composed against the plain, grey-blue background with the utmost simplicity, the white-robed Christ surrounded by his four tormentors. One soldier holds a crown of thorns above his head, another tugs at his robe, and a third touches his hand with a mocking gesture. Their actions, however, seem curiously ineffectual and Christ ignores his persecutors to look calmly, even gently, at the spectator.

The half-length format and the tendency to crowd the figures against the picture plane with little indication of space, are characteristics which reflect a Flemish devotional type popularized by Hugo van der Goes and Hans Memling. Like its Flemish models, the London Christ Crowned with Thorns presents the sacred scene not in its historical actuality but in its timeless aspect.