Edouard Manet was a French painter who paved the way for other artists to transition from realism to impressionism. He was born in Paris on January 23, 1832, and died at the age of 51 on April 30, 1883.
'Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers' painted in 1865, was an unusual subject for Manet who preferred street people, still lives, flowers and landscapes.
In this painting, Manet gives a disturbing view of the moment when Jesus is crowned with a garland of thorns, blood seeping onto His forehead.
The near naked body of Jesus is painted in a very pale, almost translucent color, in stark contrast with the black background. Three men surround Him, each with a unique posture. One, a young man in street clothes is kneeling in front of Jesus and seems to threaten Him with an arrow. The second is an older man wearing a metal helmet, who bows slightly as he gazes at Jesus. The third is standing up straight and is about to drape a robe around Jesus’ shoulders or take it away from Him.
Manet’s choice of colors and contrast between dark and light holds the viewers’ attention. The glowing paleness of Jesus’ skin is striking, as is the expression on His face, gazing at something neither the three men nor the viewer can see. The whole scene is a confrontation for the viewer that will stir emotions.
Viewers used to see Jesus as a serene, otherworldly being, now see Him as a man. A man mocked by those around Him, bleeding and no doubt in pain, with a body that appears limp. Equally disturbing are Jesus’ bound wrists, resting on His left leg. His feet, painted in a slightly darker color, are set in different positions. One is flat on the floor while the other rests on the toes, indicating that Jesus just sat down or is ready to leave.
The viewer will be haunted by this painting long after he walked away because it is very different from other paintings with the same subject. It gives a negative impression with a resemblance to Baroque and Renaissance painting. As a reference, the works of Francisco de Zurbaran and Diego Velazquez could be used. While these two painters created equal dramatic scenes, Manet’s work captures anguish and pity rather than adoration.
‘Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers’ was originally named ‘The Mocking of Christ’ and was Manet’s only entry to the 1865 Paris Salon. The painting is an oil on canvas measuring 6.26 x 4.85 feet.