Moneglia, Genoa, 1527-El Escorial, Madrid, 1585
Ecce Homo, early 1570s
Oil on canvas.
This painting represents a late and distinctive moment in Luca Cambiaso’s activity. Until this time, the scene of King Pilate presenting Christ to the people had usually involved an architectural setting and featured a boisterous crowd. Here, the composition is distilled to its essence. Life-sized and confronting the viewer, the figures of Pilate and Christ recall the heroic forms of Cambiaso’s early works, like Madonna and Child, to the left. At the same time, sensitive drawing and thin paint handling help suggest the figure’s complex states – Pilate’s ambivalence, Christ’s resignation – while dappled light and a warm palette confer naturalism to the scene. These developments, exceptional in Cambiaso’s work, were inspired by his experience of Venetian painting, but they can be more broadly associated with the Counter-Reformation and its insistence upon more accessible and affecting religious imagery. They also anticipate basic principals of Baroque style.