INRI: ‘Christ before Pilate’ by Rembrandt (1636)
The indefinable Rembrandt Van Rijn (1606 – 1669) has made his mark in history more through his etchings than his paintings. His scratches and scribbles; his bizarre variety of lines from loose to quick, cross hatched to deep and from dark to blotty have succeeded in depicting the world through its black and white beauty . Rembrandt’s needle like a quill weaved waves of life and creativity. His secret weapon was the dry point technique. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RM0qlQ0lyBc )
One of the most powerful prints composed by Rembrandt is undoubtedly ‘Christ before Pilate’. Rembrandt wiped the ink differently each time he printed thus creating several renditions of one image. The plural scene is set with limpid fusion and high emotional intensity. Contrary to Michelangelo, Rembrandt was not obsessed with the muscular. His style is boundless representing the human being in all ages, statures and conditions. They are subtle and yet complex; detailed and yet bare; grouped and yet isolated. But like the musicians of an orchestra Rembrandt’s drawings symphonise to form one unique song of art.
The lyrics of today’s etching however are piercingly paradoxical. The hailing hosannas have now stifled to the callous ‘Crucify-Him’. The theatre in which the tragic scene unfolds is a stone-clad Roman courtyard, teeming with life. To our left we notice an arched gateway through which pours in an amorphous, anonymous assembly displaying various stages of analysis, anticipation and agitation.
The gesticulating crowd is so grand that it does take an effort to disentangle them for their many individualizing gestures. They prowl over each other and climb up the base of the obelisk surmounted by the bust of a Roman Emperor in order to bear witness to the spectacle set before them. Soldiers are seen mitigating the mob with spears even as a young beardless general lifts up his hand in an attempt to pacify the magnifying multitude now reduced to a minute suffrage.
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