Pontius Pilate


Pilate’s reflective mood is nearly palpable in the exertion of his hands pressed against the stub of a column in front of him; the hands seem to be barely sustaining the heft of his torso thrust forward and the stooped head. The burden of doubts and conflicting feelings conveyed so palpably and sharply amounts to an insolvable dilemma capable of destroying the powerful procurator from inside and divesting his life of any meaning. Only the stub of a column serves as a support for his suffering body: this looks very symbolical. On the ruins of the ancient civilization, a cardinally different culture, with a totally different system of values, is emerging. Within this arduous process the procurator is assigned a specific role, which he is unable to turn down but which he is also loath to assume with blind obedience. However, it is a dialectics of synthesis and negation that promotes the birth of a new Great Idea. Every element in Pilate’s appearance signals his prominence – the muscles of a warrior and an athlete, the head with the big intelligent brow of a philosopher, the toga of a politician, the sandals of a Roman aristocrat. The perfect set of typological characteristics, while seemingly stable, appears to be vulnerable beneath the weight of the important moral and ethical problems that the procurator has to face in his life.

 

Brief annotations to the image

PONTIUS PILATE (see previous annotation), a character from the historical narrative of Christianity, was a prefect at Judaea. He is known as the judge at Jesus’s trial, and different accounts about this episode provide conflicting appraisals of his role vis-à-vis Jesus. According to the Gospel from Mark (15:1-15), Pilate simply agrees to fulfil the Sanhedrin’s resolution and the demand of the people; the Gospel from Matthew (27:11-25) adds to this account the episode with the washing of hands; and in the third and fourth Gospels (Luke 23:13-25; John 18:29; 19:16), Pilate constantly talks about Jesus’s innocence.