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Christ Shown to the People (Ecce Homo)

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio), Italian, c.1485-90–1576
Oil on canvas
Place made
Venice, Veneto, Italy, Europe
Current Location
On View, Gallery 236E
43 x 37 5/16 in. (109.2 x 94.8 cm)
framed: 57 1/4 x 51 1/2 x 2 3/4 in. (145.4 x 130.8 x 7 cm)
Credit Line
Museum Purchase
Public Domain
Object Number
By the glow of blazing torchlight, Pontius Pilate, the Roman ruler of Judea, presents Christ to an unseen crowd who will decide his fate. Pilate’s extravagant fur-lined cloak and the page’s opulent jewelry contrast with the nearly naked Christ. The distinction between simplicity and splendor underscores the poignancy of the humiliation Christ endured. Evidenced by the sketchy application of paint in the upper left, the work was left unfinished at Titian’s death. During his long life, Titian had become one of the most celebrated artists of his day, recognized and sought after by popes and secular rulers. Qualities such as the assured, powerful brushwork, sensitive modeling, subdued palette, and emotional depth characterize Titian’s late style.
f painting, scholars including Giorgio Gronau, Grazia Bernini Pezzini, and Federico Pedrocco have identified the unspecified "Christ" painting as an "Ecce Homo" [Gronau, Giorgio. "Documenti artistici urbinati." Firenze: G. C. Sansoni, 1936, pgs. 61-61, 66, 103; Dante Bernini, Grazia Bernini Pezzini, and Zampetti, Pietro. "Tiziano per i Duchi di Urbino." Urbino: Palazzo Ducale, 1976, p. 63; Pedrocco, Federico. "Titian: The Complete Paintings." London: Thames and Hudson, p. 244, 296]. Unfortunately, there are few indications that the painting described in the inventories refers to the one in the Museum's collection. In fact, Pedrocco even claims that the "Ecce Homo" painted for the Duke is of a different type and is now lost. Although it seems that the painting may not have been owned by the Duke of Urbino, the notion that the inventories refer to the Museum's painting cannot be wholly disproved at this time. In addition, this picture had previously been dated to around 1565 but has more recently been assigned the later date of c.1570-75. This later dating makes the identification of this picture with the one mentioned in the 1566 letter less likely. It is possible, however, that the painting was begun as early as 1566.

[2] August L. Mayer first suggested that this picture was the same one acquired by the painter and art dealer, Gabriele Balestrieri in 1644 for Coccapani, Bishop of Reggio, citing Campori's Raccolta de Cataloghi [Mayer, August L. "A propos d'un nouveau livre sur le Titien." "Gazette des Beaux-Arts" 18 (1937): 307]. In a letter dated January 9, 1644, Balestrieri states that he purchased the picture in Venice for the bishop's collection. The painting is described as partly finished, partly sketched and by Titian's hand [Campori, Giuseppe. "Raccolta di cataloghi ed inventarii inediti: di quadri, statue, disegni, bronzi, dorerie, smalti, medaglie, avori, ecc. dal secolo XV al secolo XIX." Bologna: A. Forni, 1975 (Reprint of 1870 ed.), p. 144].

[3] Ac
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