The J. Paul Getty Museum

Christ before Caiaphas

Object Details


Christ before Caiaphas


Simon Bening (Flemish, about 1483 - 1561)




Bruges, Belgium (Place Created)


about 1525–1530


Tempera colors, gold paint, and gold leaf on parchment

Object Number:

Ms. Ludwig IX 19 (83.ML.115), fol. 128v


Leaf: 16.8 × 11.4 cm (6 5/8 × 4 1/2 in.)

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Object Description

In this miniature the artist Simon Bening emphasized the contrast between the passive and gentle Jesus, in a neutral-colored garment, and the aggressively hostile high priest Caiaphas, clothed in more vivid colors and vigorously confronting him. Following Saint Matthew's Gospel, Caiaphas tears at his robe as he accuses Jesus of blasphemy for identifying himself as the Messiah. In contrast, Jesus, his physical beauty underscoring his divinity, calmly accepts his destiny. The artist heightened the drama of the confrontation by setting the scene in a darkened, monumental interior, illuminated only by eerie torchlight. By depicting a vulnerable and very human Jesus, Bening encouraged the reader to empathize with Jesus' suffering, a response that the Church and much religious art of the later Middle Ages promoted.

Bening framed the scene with simulated wood arches, suggesting that the viewer is peering through a window into a real, three-dimensional space. The frame also recalls the frames found on the altarpieces that graced the interiors of contemporary churches and chapels, reinforcing the devotional nature of the image.

Masterpieces of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscript illumination (December 16, 1997 to March 22, 1998)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 16, 1997 to March 22, 1998