Christ before Pilate


Albrecht Dürer ( German, 1471 - 1528 )

c. 1509
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General Description

In this episode of the Passion, Jesus is brought by a crowd to Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judea. Pilate is dressed in Oriental costume and stands atop a complex of stairs; to the left an armed crowd holds Jesus captive, and to the right a man lists his crimes. Pilate holds his hand up, calling for a pause to the discontent, and lobbies for Jesus’s innocence, as is described in the four gospel accounts of the event.

The hodgepodge of stairs, columns, arches, and doorways allows Albrecht Dürer to show off his mastery of two-point perspective, where lines recede to one of two vanishing points on the horizon line. It is used to construct the illusion of corners or intersections, as evident in the series of stairs. In the background, buildings with pitched roofs add a specifically Germanic reference to an otherwise classicizing architectural scheme.

Excerpt from

Laura Sevelis, DMA label copy, 2015.

Web Resources

  • Inside Albrecht Dürer's Studio-Woodcut
    Watch this demonstration and explanation of the woodcut process created by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute for the exhibition, The Strange World of Albrecht Dürer (November 14, 2010- March 13, 2011).