(b. 1821, Ronco Scrivia, d. 1933, Firenze)
Oil on canvas, 292 x 380 cm
Galleria dell'Arte Moderna, Palazzo Pitti, Florence
In the mid-nineteenth century, awareness of the Italian past extended to the study of the old Italian masters, and especially of the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century primitives. From 1848 to 1859, this interest was apparent in the Tuscan Purist, among them Antonio Ciseri.
Commissioned in 1871 by the Italian government, this is the most impressive of Ciseri's religious works and was first exhibited in the artist's studio shortly after his death. It won immediate acclaim for its luminosity and superior effect of transparent whites. With an objective, positivist approach, Ciseri describes the moment when Pontius Pilate, leaning forward from the balcony of a palace toward the crowd below him, offers up both Christ and Barabas for sentencing. The presence of Roman centurions as well as other details like ancient garments and architectural props lends this scene a sense of historical authenticity.