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"The Mockery of Christ", Oil by Fra Angelico (1400-1455, Italy)
This is the fresco on the wall of Cell 7 of the Convento di San Marco in Florence. The contemplative restraint of the San Marco frescoes is nowhere better illustrated than in The Mocking of Christ. Rather than paint Christ's humiliations in their full violence in a complex narrative work, they are reduced to a series of iconographic symbols. In doing this Angelico was drawing on established trecento precedents. In a plain-walled room Christ sits on a dais in a luminous white robe and tunic. The great slab of white marble beneath Him adds to the air of radiant whiteness surrounding Him. He is blindfolded, with a crown of thorns about his head. Behind Him hanging from a plain frieze is a screen on which are painted the emblems of his indignities: the head of the spitting soldier, the hands of the buffeters, the hand and stick forcing the thorns down on his head. On a low step at the front of the picture sit the Virgin and St Dominic. Neither regard Christ but sit with their backs turned towards him in poses of intense meditation - the depth of meditation that the frescoes were designed to assist each friar to attain.Fra Angelico was assisted by Benozzo Gozzoli in the execution of this fresco.