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"THEN the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common-hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand; and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spat upon him, and took the reed and smote him on the head."-St. Matthew, chap. 27.
The picture on which this subject has been represented by Titian, is one of the finest of this master, although it is not exempt from those defects for which he has been often reproached. The head of Christ has much dignity; and its agonizing and majestic expression is the more worthy of remark, as Titian, as well as the most skilful painters of the Venetian school, has often neglected the character of these personages. The taste of design in this figure is of the grand style, although it presents some inaccuracies. The feeling of hatred is tolerably well expressed on the countenances of some of the personages; but this passion ought, perhaps, to display itself with greater energy. It has been 'regretted, that this great artist has not represented the inhuman irony which is indicated in the text. The Jews appear resolved to torment our Saviour; but there is no one, not even the person who
is kneeling on the front of the picture, that appears to address him in these words-" Hail, King of the Jews!"
Considered with respect to colouring, the picture is deserving of the highest praise. In no picture has Titian painted his characters with more animation and correctness. The draperies and the accessaries are treated in the same superior manner. The ground is vigorous without being dark; and, composed of the richest tints, corresponds with the imposing aspect of this capital production.
Titian was accustomed to compare the manner in which the lights and shades should be disposed on a picture to a bunch of grapes, or many bodies combined, presenting only a general mass, although they preserve their particular forms. This precept has been adopted by artists; and it is only in their conformity to this principle, that they have succeeded in the chiaro-scuro. This has been employed by Titian in this picture with the happiest effect. The principal light falls on the figure of Christ, and spreads with much harmony over the other figures. The drapery, of a bright red, has the advantage of being conformable to the text of scripture, and attracts the eye to the chief personage, of which it lengthens the character.