Ecce Homo

Ecce Homo

"Ecce Homo" (pronounced|ˈɛtːʃe ˈhomo or pronounced|ˈɛkːe ˈhomo) are the Latin words used by Pontius Pilate in the Vulgate translation of the Gospel of John (19:5), when he presented a scourged Jesus Christ, bound and crowned with thorns, to a hostile crowd shortly before his Crucifixion. The original Greek is Ἰδοὺ ὁ ἄνθρωπος ("Idou ho Anthrôpos"). The King James Version translates the phrase into English as Behold the Man. The scene is widely depicted in Christian art.

Artistic subject

The "Ecce homo" is a standard component of cycles illustrating the "Passion" and "Life of Christ" in art. It follows the "Flagellation of Christ", the "Crowning with thorns" and the Mocking of Christ, the last two often being combined. The usual depiction shows Pilate and Christ, the mocking crowd and parts of the city of Jerusalem, but from the 15th century devotional pictures are found of Jesus alone, in half or full figure with a purple robe, loincloth, crown of thorns and torture wounds, especially on his head. Similar subjects but with the wounds of the crucifixion showing (Nail wounds on the limbs, spear wounds on the sides), are termed a "Man of Sorrow(s)" (also "Misericordia"), and if the "Instruments of the Passion" are present it may be called an Arma Christi. If Christ is sitting down (usually supporting himself with his hand on his thigh), it may be referred to it as "Christ at rest". It is not always possible to distinguish these subjects.

The first depictions of the "ecce homo" scene in the arts appear in the 9th and 10th centuries in Syrian-byzantine culture. Western depictions in the Middle Ages that often seem to depict the "ecce homo" scene, (and are usually interpreted as such) more often than not only show the crowning of thorns and the mocking of Christ, (cf. the "Egbert Codex" and the "Codex aureus Epternacensis") which precede the actual "ecce homo" scene in the Bible. The independent image only developed around 1400, probably in Burgundy, but then rapidly became extremely popular, especially in Northern Europe. [G Schiller, "Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. II",1972 (English trans from German), Lund Humphries, London, pp.74-75, figs 236, 240, 256-273, ISBN 853313245]

The motif found increasing currency as the Passion became a central theme in Western piety in the 15th and 16th centuries. The "ecce homo" theme was included not only in the passion plays of medieval theatre, but also in cycles of illustrations of the story of the Passion, as in the Passions of Albrecht Dürer or the prints of Martin Schongauer. The scene was (especially in France) often depicted as a sculpture or group of sculptures; even altarpieces and other paintings with the motif were produced (by, for example, Hieronymus Bosch or Hans Holbein). Like the passion plays, the visual depictions of the "ecce homo" scene, it has been argued, often, and increasingly, portray the people of Jerusalem in a highly critical light, bordering perhaps on antisemitic caricatures. Equally, this style of art has been read as a kind of simplistic externalisation of the inner hatred of the angry crowd towards Jesus, not necessarily implying any racial judgment.

The motif of the lone figure of a suffering Christ who seems to be staring directly at the observer, enabling him/her to personally identify with the events of the Passion, arose in the late Middle Ages. A parallel development was that the similar motifs of the "Man of Sorrow" and "Christ at rest" increased in importance. The subject was used repeatedly in later prints (for example, by Jacques Callot and Rembrandt), the paintings of the Renaissance and the Baroque, as well as in Baroque sculptures.

In 1490, Hieronymus Bosch painted "ecce homo" in a characteristically Netherlandish style, with deep perspective and a surreal ghostly image of praying monks in the lower left-hand corner.

In 1498, Albrecht Dürer depicted the suffering of Christ in the "ecce homo" scene of his "Great Passion" in unusually close relation with his self-portrait, leading to a reinterpretation of the motif as a metaphor for the suffering of the artist. As a representation of the injustice of critique, James Ensor used the "ecce homo" motif in his bitingly ironic print "Christ and the Critics"(1891), in which he portrayed himself as Christ.

Especially in the 19th and 20th centuries, the meaning of "ecce homo" motif has been extended to the portrayal of suffering and the degradation of humans through violence and war. Famous modern depictions are: Lovis Corinth's later work "Ecce homo"(1925), which shows, from the perspective of the crowd, Jesus, a soldier and Pilate dressed as a physician, and Otto Dix's "Ecce homo with self-likeness behind barbed wire" (1948).

Other references

Ecce Homo is an arch in the Old City of Jerusalem, adjoining a church by that name.

When Napoleon Bonaparte met Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, he was supposed to have initiated the conversation with the words "Vous êtes un homme" (or "Voilà un homme").

Alluding to the biblical quote, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche named his autobiography "Ecce Homo".

A controversial exhibition in Europe by the Swedish photographer Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin in 1998 was entitled "Ecce homo", linking the phrase to homosexuality. The exhibition comprised 12 photographs which depicted Jesus with homosexuals and were based on well-known depictions in the visual arts.

At the beginning of episodes of the television series "Mr. Bean", a choir sings "Ecce homo qui est faba" - "Behold the man who is a bean."


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  • Ecce Homo — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Ecce Homo (homonymie). Ecce Homo de Antonello da Messina Ecce Homo …   Wikipédia en Français

  • ecce homo — ● ecce homo nom masculin invariable (mots latin signifiant voici l homme) Représentation de Jésus Christ comparaissant devant Pilate. ● ecce homo (difficultés) nom masculin invariable (mots latin signifiant voici l homme) Prononciation [&ph89;… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Ecce homo — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Ecce Homo por Quentin Massys, ca. 1520 Para la obra de Friedrich Nietzsche, véase Ecce homo. Cómo se llega a ser lo que se es …   Wikipedia Español

  • ecce-homo — ⇒ECCE( )HOMO, (ECCE HOMO, ECCE HOMO)subst. masc. ARTS PLAST. [P. réf. aux paroles de Ponce Pilate présentant le Christ couronné d épines au peuple juif (Évangile de St Jean, 19/5)] Représentation sous forme de tableau, sculpture, objet d… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Ecce, homo! —   Dies ist die lateinische Übersetzung einer Stelle aus dem Johannesevangelium (19, 5). Ihr entspricht in der Lutherbibel der Ausruf: »Sehet, welch ein Mensch!« Mit diesen Worten führte Pilatus den anklagenden Juden den gegeißelten Jesus vor. In… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Ecce homo — Ecce homo. Die lateinischen Worte: Seht, welch ein Mensch! die Pilatus (Joh. 19,5.) bewundernd ausrief, als er den leidenden Christus nach der Geißelung den tobenden Juden vorstellte. Die größten Maler wählten diesen Gegenstand und behandelten… …   Damen Conversations Lexikon

  • ecce\ homo — [ ɛkseɔmo ] n. m. inv. • 1690; mots lat. « voici l homme », prononcés par Ponce Pilate en présentant au peuple juif le Christ couronné d épines ♦ Arts Tableau, dessin, sculpture représentant Jésus Christ portant la couronne d épines. Les Ecce… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • ecce homo — homo / ɛtʃ:e ɔmo/ locuz. lat. (pop. ecceomo s.m.) [propr. ecco l uomo , parole che Pilato, nel Vangelo di s. Giovanni, pronuncia mentre presenta alla folla Gesù flagellato e coronato di spine], usata in ital. come s.m., invar. 1. (artist.)… …   Enciclopedia Italiana

  • ecce homo! — (izg. ȅkce hȍmo) uzv. DEFINICIJA riječi kojima Poncije Pilat pokazuje svjetini Krista s krunom od trnja na glavi i trskom u ruci 1. lik. motiv u slikarstvu, čest ikonografski prikaz 2. razg. ekspr. u situacijama kada se pokazivanjem (opisom,… …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • Ecce homo — Ec ce ho mo ([e^]k s[ e] h[=o] m[ o]). [L., behold the man. See John xix. 5.] (Paint.) A picture which represents the Savior as given up to the people by Pilate, and wearing a crown of thorns. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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