(b. 1844, Munkács, d. 1900, Endenich)

Ecce Homo!

Oil on canvas, 403 x 650 cm
Déri Museum, Debrecen

The second episode in the chonology of the Bible was painted as the third picture of Munkácsy's trilogy. The other two pictures had been in Philadelphia for years when Munkácsy was persuaded by Gábor Kádár, a Hungarian graphic artist and printer, to make the trilogy complete. (In fact, it was Kádár who arranged for the pictures to be taken on tour to exhibit them.) Munkácsy's choice of subject matter was probably influenced by "The Governor of Judaea", a short story by Anatole France and by Munkácsy's impaired health and mental status. All this urged him to paint the second and painful meeting of Christ and Pilate instead of Christ's glorious resurrection or ascension.

The portrait of the Saviour reflects Munkácsy's state of mind. Pilate introduces him to his people by saying, "Ecce Homo!". Christ is not guilty according to the laws of Rome, Pilate says to the people who respond to Pilate's words with gestures. The gestures of men are rude and indicate attack, while those of women are gentle and protective. Munkácsy's contemporaries identified Mary, John, the Evangelist, the penitent Magdalene, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arithea and Judas in the picture. Munkácsy's picture is rather descriptive. The last work of the tired master was taken to the Millenary Exhibition in Budapest by Munkácsy himself.

Later, the picture was exhibited in Vienna, Bruxelles, England and Ireland. James Joyce, a young man at the time, saw it in Dublin in 1899. Although "Ecce Homo" was taken to America, too, it never met the other two pictures of the trilogy there because first they were in the country residence of Wanamaker and later, in 1907-11, they were restored. In 1911, a Munkácsy Room was opened in Wanamaker's department store, yet the two journalists who described it never even mentioned "Ecce Homo". They went to Philadelphia in order to find out if Wanamaker was willing to give the picture to Hungary as "Ecce Homo" had been exhibited in Venice and Budapest in 1914. It was suggested that Munkácsy's Trilogy should be placed side by side in a roman catholic cathedral to be built. John Wanamaker was ready to sell the pictures but even the sum of 120,000 crowns required for "Ecce Homo" by the English - American consortium could never be raised. In the meantime, World War I broke out and nobody cared about culture. Frigyes Déri, a trade counseller who had been living in Vienna, appeared in the right moment to solve the hopeless problem: he bought "Ecce Homo" for 76,000 gold crowns. In his last will, he left the picture together with his art collection to Debrecen. A gallery was built for it with skylights where the picture has been on show since 1930. In 1993 "Golgota" and in 1995 "Christ in Front of Pilate" were placed on both sides of "Ecce Homo". Thus, efforts to unite the three pictures proved to be successful, although the exhibition of the trilogy is only a temporary one.