Christ before Caiaphas
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Simon Bening
Flemish, Bruges, about 1525 - 1530
Tempera colors, gold paint, gold leaf, and ink on parchment
6 5/8 x 4 1/2 in.

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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.