This painting is one of the two versions of the same artwork that Caravaggio painted in 1606 after his arrival in Naples.
The Musee des Beaux-Arts de Rouen, Rouen in France, currently houses this piece of art. Christ at The Column painting represents the many attempts that artists all over the globe to represent the suffering of Christ just before the crucifixion.
The painting depicts three men: Christ and two of his tormentors. They have tied Christ to a column; hence, the title Christ At The Column. This portrayal of the Biblical event possibly alludes to the judgment of Christ at Pilate’s. The torturers have stripped the Son of God to minimal clothing to double the torment and push him further down the abyss of embarrassment. The snub-nosed tormentor on the far right has his hand in the air, ready to unleash terrible pain on the innocent man. It is a microcosm of the many sufferings that Jesus had to undergo to save God’s people from the clutches of the evil one.
The subject of the crucifixion is at the core of the foundation of the Christian faith. It marked a new beginning in the history of Christianity and a renewal of faith especially among the disciples who were grappling with the worst form of dejection when Christ’s body made its way into the tomb.
Caravaggio joined the fray and put oil to canvas to make his mark on the theme of crucifixion. He idealises the figures in his painting and twists them through multiple layers of space. Caravaggio has also managed to flatten the area and reduce the figures as much as possible.
He uses light to draw attention to the most important parts of the picture which are the faces of the torturers and the half-naked body of Christ. The result is a powerful image that captures the mind of the audience and drives them into a deeper and more critical evaluation of their faith in Christ.
Christ at the Column is one of the many paintings by Caravaggio that depict Biblical themes, especially those revolving around Christ. It is perhaps such issues that helped propel Caravaggio to international fame in a treacherous field: art. Living at a time when the world was exploding with prolific artists, Caravaggio may have found it difficult to break forth without resorting to Biblical themes. Nothing moves masses more than the power of the Gospel, and Caravaggio utilised it to the uttermost.
The painting Christ at the Column is a powerful portrayal of Christ’s suffering before taking to the cross and bringing salvation to humanity. Caravaggio must have wished to draw people’s attention to the very foundation of Christianity, and have them re-evaluate their positions in respect to Christ.