(b. ca. 1386, Firenze, d. 1466, Firenze)

Christ before Pilate

San Lorenzo, Florence

This relief and its pendant depicting Christ before Caiaphas, are on the Passion Pulpit. After his interrogation by the Jewish high priest Caiaphas, Christ was brought before Pilate, the Roman procurator. Both scenes, which happened one after the other, are depicted next to each other within a uniformly constructed architectural backdrop. An enormous wealth of artistic ideas can be made out in the multitude of remarkable details. These stretch from the figures which are watching the events from a distance on a balustrade in the background, via the arched architectural feature which is arranged according to the laws of perspective, to the diverse postures of the figures in the foreground, some of which are half covered by the edge of the relief.

The representation of Christ before Pilate is separated from the adjacent scene by a historiated column like those of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius. A two-headed servant, a Janus figure, offers a bowl to Pilate to wash the guilt from his hands. With this acute psychological device, Donatello visualized the inner conflict of Pilate: to yield either to his wife's plea for clemency or his own desire for expediency.