Hieronymous Francken the Elder

Flanders 1540-1610
Christ Being Shown to the People 25.0096

Painting in the Spanish Netherlands in the 16th century perpetuated inherited styles and traditions, responding to the Council of Trent's call for art that could revitalize previous pictorial traditions in light of new Catholic Church doctrine. Themes of Christ's infancy and crucifixion were time-honored subjects that were especially adaptable to the Jesuits' emphasis on Christ's willing sacrifice. Frequently these works also included animated figures and complex architectural vistas. Hieronymus Francken the Elder has set an elaborate stage for the subject of this painting, Christ's presentation to the people before his crucifixion. The prisoner Barabbas, just released by Pilate, is being escorted away directly beneath Christ. However, the figures are dwarfed by the architectural setting and foreground action. The architecture and costumes are a blend of Renaissance, classical, and early Christian, as evidenced by the turbaned figure of Pilate and the two figures flanking Christ, one dressed as a 16th-century European soldier, the other as an ancient Roman soldier. Francken has also used the crowded public arena to include a meticulously wrought still life in the right foreground. This work is painted on a copper panel. More expensive than wood, copper was frequently used as a support in northern painting as it enhanced the luster of the oils and glazes. Copper panel paintings, however, present more conservation problems than wood or canvas, because the paint does not adhere as firmly, and the copper panel is easily bent and damaged.`




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