The J. Paul Getty Museum

Christ Before Pilate

Object Details


Christ Before Pilate


Nikolaus Knüpfer (Dutch, about 1603 - 1655)




about 1640–1650


Brush and brown ink and brown wash, heightened with white gouache, on light brown paper

Object Number:



Sheet: 51.1 × 62.9 cm (20 1/8 × 24 3/4 in.)

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Object Description

An angry crowd of onlookers gathers to observe Pontius Pilate's sentencing of Jesus. Having questioned Christ and found him innocent, Pilate wanted to release him, but he gave in to the bloodthirsty mob clamoring for crucifixion. To emphasize his lack of responsibility for the decision, Pilate washed his hands in public. This scene occurs on the raised platform outside the courthouse, while soldiers hold back the crowds at the foot of the steps.

Nikolaus Knüpfer created a stage-like setting for the drama of the trial. The darkened foreground figures lead the eye upward to the platform where the dramatic forms of Christ and his tormentors stand silhouetted against the sky. The brilliant illumination of Christ's face and torso points to his focal role. While suggesting the teeming mob of onlookers with some sketchily drawn faces at the right, Knüpfer mainly concentrated on a few foreground figures. Other characters, such as the carefree boy on the left playing with his top and the weeping woman outside the prison gates, add interest to the scene.

Dutch Drawings of the Golden Age (May 28 to August 25, 2002)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), May 28 to August 25, 2002
Visions of Grandeur: Drawing in the Baroque Age (June 1 to September 12, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), June 1 to September 12, 2004