Ecce Homo

(Behold the Man) / Ecce Homo (Este Es El Hombre)

Feast day: August 20

Invoked by Augustinians as a reminder of Christ’s suffering.

Essay by Carolyn Christensen

Ecce Homo is a fifteenth-seventeenth century Christian iconography. The Roman prefect Pontius Pilate called for the crucifixion of Christ using the words “Behold the Man” at his trial. This theme alludes to Christ’s judgement drawn from the Passion and Life of Christ canonical Gospel cycles. The narrative typically depicts a flagellated and ridiculed Christ in half or full stature wearing a Crown of Thorns and dressed in a purple robe referring to Christ as the King of Jews.

The first retablo (fig.1) shows a wounded Christ holding a cross painted in a strong foreshortening. His head is bent, and his gaze is on the ground with wounds visible on his left hand and face. The Crown of Thorns upon Christ’s head is one of the Instrument of the Passion used to torture and mock Christ. Thorns are often associated with hardships, sin and sorrow. Here, the sky is pale blue, appearing to be cloaked by a white veil that is either done as a suggestion of clouds or mist. The landscape alludes to Mexican corn fields.

The second retablo (fig. 2) depicts Christ in a similar purple robe representing His judgement with a halo behind his head. He is looking to his right, hands tied with a rope against a blue background as if floating in the air. On either side of Jesus, there are two large red vases with flowers matching the large red band on the bottom section. The third retablo (fig. 3) features a half-length Christ dressed in purple robe with the Mercedarian scapular around his neck representing the Military Order of Our Lady of Mercy and the Redemption of Captives. His hands are tied with a rope and He is crowned with the Crown of Thorns surrounded by a halo. Billowing clouds appear from behind him.

Figure 1. Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) / Ecce Homo (Este es el Hombre)

Anonymous, Mexico. Nineteenth Century.

Oil on tin.  NMSU Art Gallery #1968.4.115.

Figure 2. Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) / Ecce Homo (Este es el Hombre)

Anonymous, Mexico. Nineteenth Century.

Oil on tin. NMSU Art Gallery #1969.1.45.

Figure 3. Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) / Ecce Homo (Este es el Hombre)

Anonymous, Mexico. Nineteenth Century.

Oil on tin. NMSU Art Gallery #1966.1.5.

References

Dreher, Rod. How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-changing Wisdom of History’s Greatest Poem. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2015.

“Ecce Homo.” Encyclopædia Britannica. July 20, 1998. Accessed April 24, 2019. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ecce-Homo-Christian-art .

Healey, Tim. “The Symbolism of the Cross in Sacred and Secular Art.” Leonardo 10, no. 4 (Autumn 1977): 289-94.

King James Bible, Matthew 27:27-31. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.