Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Ecce Homo

Malczewski's Christ Before Pilate

While living in L'viv, Ukraine, six years ago, I saw some amazing works by Polish artist Jacek Malczewski. His 1910 Christ Before Pilate (oil on board, 65 X 80.5 cm, 25.6" X 31.7") overwhelmed me with its cynical nonchalance and subtle homoeroticism. Malczewski, known for his self-portraits, had projected himself into this image as Christ himself, but instead of the typical bald head, he had long strands of ruddy hair. It reminded me of the henna color popular with all girls who grew up on that side of the world. He seems genuinely perplexed as to why Pilate, who is busy concentrating on filing his nails and looking much-too-much like a porn star from the 1970s, is utterly uninterested in him. I imagine Christ wanting to scream, “Pay attention to me. I’m the fucking son of God!” But shirtless Pilate with his full pink lips continues preening, waiting for the Roman guards to remove this self-important Jew from his bedroom.


  1. Brilliant interpretation and an interesting reflection on self-importance of "god" figures as well as the lack of relevance to would-be subjects.

  2. I have returned several times just to look again at this piece. I find Christ's facial expression more enigmatic. I don't necessarily imagine him angry at his so-called divinity being dismissed by Pilate, but as a man ignored by a would-be lover. The Son of God, Prince of Peace aspects of Christ are done to death, and most popular culture attempts to humanize him cast him as the sensitive hetero guy who knocks up Mary Magdelene. Anyway--thanks for sharing this--I'd love to see more of Malczewski's work.