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Christ Before Pilate, 1881

Munkácsy started work on Christ before Pilate on the summer of 1880. He made several oil and drawing studies, and hired models who he dressed up in antique clothing in order to keep in mind the historical truth, and the drama of this spectacular scene. The purpose of the composition is to highlight the dramatic conflict between the three groups of people represented: the emphasis is on the innocent Jesus, Pontius Pilate as well as the rough, blood thirsty crowd. The moment is almost palpable between Jesus and the representative of the Roman Empire, with Pontius Pilate portrayed using various psychological techniques.Apparently, according to Roman Law, Jesus was not guilty of declaring himself son of God and king of the Jews, but the hesitant Pilate pondering over his life and death decision had not considered the emotions of the malevolent mob demanding Jesus' death. "Munkácsy's soul was deeply captured by the contrast between the brutal armed force, the power of the street mob and love's wonderful ability of selfsacrifice" - wrote Károly Lyka on the pages of the weekly paper Új Idők (New Times).

The painting was first shown in Sedelmeyer's palace in Paris, and by October approximately three hundred thousand people had seen it. Several critic reviews appeared in the contemporary press, with most of them was complimenting the painting and the artist. Sedelmeyer won the support of the Church as well,and his speech at the event of the St John Society Désiré Levardant hailed Munkácsy as the person who brought people closer to Christian teachings through his work.

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