This white resin figure, which looks like sculpted marble but was cast directly from the body of a young Londoner, represents Jesus at the climactic moment of his presentation to the mob in Jerusalem: "Then Jesus came forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man (Ecce homo)!" (John 19:5).
The sculpture was first displayed on a plinth in London's Trafalgar Square in July 1999. There was something almost mystical or revelatory about the unveiling of the contemplative work in this busy spot. For a moment, unintentionally reenacting a mythical scene, passersby became part of the murmuring crowd in the two thousand-year-old drama. Dwarfed by its base, the naked, beaten, downcast figure seemed cut off from this world, hands tied behind his back, head shaven, closed eyes looking inward. Moreover, the contrast between the sculpture and the cultural and national monuments of the British Empire that epitomize Trafalgar Square made a political and social statement. Wallinger's work defends the pure and the meek as it indicts our repression of the Other and the double standards of modern society. It is interesting to compare the feelings awakened by his work with those that the tortured figure of Christ on his cross was meant to evoke in Christian believers.
From the Israel Museum publications:
Zalmona, Yigal, ed., The Israel Museum at 40: Masterworks of Beauty and Sanctity, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2005
The Israel Museum, Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2005
Beauty and Sanctity: the Israel Museum at 40. A Series of Exhibitions Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Zalmona, Yigal, 2006
Landau, Suzanne, Contemporary Art in the Israel Museum, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2010
Coen-Uzzielli, Tania, A Brief History of Humankind: The Exhibition, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2015
Vanishing Point: Hidden Beauty in Contemporary Art, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 12/04/2005 - 25/10/2005
Secrets and Ties: Wondrous Connections in the Israel Museum Collections, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 25/07/2008 - 22/11/2008
A Brief History of Humankind, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 01/05/2015 - 02/01/2016
Digital presentation of this object was made possible by: The Ridgefield Foundation, New York, in memory of Henry J. and Erna D. Leir