Christ is shown with his head down, quietly suffering in the forecourt of Pilate’s palace, surrounded by jeering soldiers.
The scene depicts one of the torments that Christ was subjected to on the long Friday that ended in his death upon the Cross. Mockingly he has been called the King of the Jews, and now his tormentors have crowned him with thorns and wrapped him in a scarlet cloak to indicate his kingly stature.
One of the soldiers kneels before Christ in mock humility, handing him a stick in lieu of a sceptre.
The Utrecht Caravaggists
Hendrick Ter Brugghen spent his formative years in Rome where the painter Caravaggio (1571-1610) became the main influence. Upon his return Ter Brugghen became the prime mover of a new school, the Utrecht Caravaggists, whose trademark style was an insistent naturalism combined with a high-contrast vein of painting known as clair obscur (light-dark).
The North European tradition
Even so, Ter Brugghen’s painting did not completely abandon North European tradition. The soldiers’ leering faces and the slightly angular body language has roots stretching back to late Gothic altarpieces and print series depicting the Passion, e.g. those by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528).