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Page 44 Commentary

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Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard

John 19:1; Luke 23:16

The scene is divided unequally under two arches. Christ, with lanky locks of hair, and his curved back poignantly exposed to the tormentors, is tied to the central column. The man on the right is delivering a back-hand blow while the one on the left holds Christ’s binding cord. Pilate sits on the side holding a whip in his right hand and making an equivocal open-palmed gesture with his left hand. (His forefinger has been mistakenly over painted in blue.)

The scourging is mentioned in John 19:1 and Luke 23:16 and it takes place after Pilate’s first interview at which he wishes to release Christ with a beating. It happens before the mocking with the crown of thorns. Pilate’s whip and open palm indicate his words ‘I will therefore chastise him and release him’.

Back views are rare in medieval art, but Christ’s scourging fulfils the text of Isaiah 50:6 ‘I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting’. A close comparison is found in a Carolingian ivory in the Louvre which includes the detail of Christ’s right foot turned to show the sole and his straggly hair. The presence of Pilate as instigator of this scene is quite clear from the gospel, but he is not usually shown until later examples like Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Mus. MS. 36-1950 (AP, 58, 91, pl 110).

Quire 3.
Thread or stitch holes for protective curtain

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