The Mocking of Christ
(Francesco Furini)


Florence 1603-1646

Ecce Homo

Oil on canvas
51 x 38 ¼ in. (131 x 97 cm.)

PROVENANCE: Private Collection, England;
Matthiesen Gallery, London, 1992.

LITERATURE: G. Cantelli, Francesco Furini, forthcoming monograph in the course of publication.

Having been judged in the past as a mere purveyor of erotic images veiled in sfumato and disguised as religious themes, Furini has recently been fully revalued as one of the more original of Florentine seicento painters. The principal source of our information regarding his life remains Filippo Baldinucci’s Notizie, although he seemed unclear on many details, and frequently had recourse to anecdote rather than hard fact. The fragmentary biography attributed to Domenico Peruzzi published by Barsanti adds a further dimension.

After studying with his father, the minor painter Filippo Sciamerone, Furini entered the studio of Passignano, and then Cristofano Allori’s. Like other Florentines such as Giovanni da San Giovanni, Furini appears to have evinced an early interest in Caravaggio, whose work he must have seen in Rome after his arrival there late in 1619. Such an interest is clear in our picture, modified by more classicising elements. It seems certain that Furini assisted Giovanni da San Giovanni in painting his fresco The Chariot of Night as a companion to Reni’s Aurora in the Palazzo Pallavicini Rospigliosi. This is not unimportant, since Reni’s seicento rethinking of Raphael is often reflected in Furini’s work. After a brief return to Florence, where he appears to have frequented the Matteo Rosselli studio, Furini was again in Rome, returning definitively to Florence in late 1624.

Furini’s first and only dated picture is his allegory, Painting and Poetry of 1626 (Florence, Palatine Gallery), revealing his classical Roman interests coupled with the beginnings of his personal use of sfumato effects. Several important pictures (notably Cephalus and Aurora, (Ponce, Art Museum), dated by Cantelli to around 1628 have been restored to his oeuvre, and a clearer understanding of his early period is now emerging. Documentary sources provide a precise dating of 1628 for his Allegory of the Salviati Family (Florence, Salviati Collection). A Venetian visit is documented in 1629, and Cantelli has suggested that the painter was again in Venice early in 1638, seeing clear evidence of this in his major fresco commission for the Sala degli Argenti in the Pitti Palace (1639-42).

Our Ecce Homo constitutes an important addition to this part of Furini’s career. Furini was Prior of S. Ansano by 1633, proving that Baldinucci’s dating of his ordination was inaccurate by a decade: it would be tempting to interpret the intensity of our picture as evidence that Furini painted it around the period of his unexpected and somewhat ambiguous ‘conver¬sion’ to the priesthood.

The source for Furini’s composition was undoubtedly Cigoli’s celebrated painting of the same theme in the Palatine Gallery, Florence, painted in 1604-6; Furini’s variations however are indicative of the changes in Florentine painting in the two decades between the pictures. Although he adopts Cigoli’s three-quarter length format, foreground balustrade, and the optical device of drapery creating a link between background and fore¬ground, Furini’s viewpoint is lower. Furthermore, he respects the picture edge less, allowing his figures to extend the dramatic action from beyond the frame into our presence – in itself a more Baroque approach. Cigoli’s static composition is essentially more of an invitation to contemplate Christ’s suffering, while Furini uses the armed soldier’s gesture and Christ’s twisting movement to suggest a more palpable anguish. The sol¬dier lifts Christ’s brilliantly coloured cloak in a manner making us more conscious of his nakedness, and Christ is the only figure looking directly at us.

Christ’s pose is identical with that of Hylas in Furini’s Hylas and the Nymphs, (Florence, Palatine Gallery) dateable between 1630-33, and he used it again on other occasions, as in his Magdalen (Palatine). The more factual and thus Caravaggesque treatment of the turbanned man at the right remains closer to the corresponding figure in Cigoli’s picture, while the painting of Christ’s flesh and face has the sfumato and exploitation of the dramatic possibilities of the dark, visible picture ground associated with the mature Furini style. His flesh is handled in a particularly charac¬teristic manner, comparable with numerous other autograph Furini pic¬tures.

Christ has a noticeably more epicene quality than either of the other fig¬ures, a feature which, while pointing to the direction subsequently taken in Furini’s art, does not necessarily indicate a later dating. Its mannered contrapposto is markedly at variance with the attendant figures. Although a comparison may be made between the facial type and the handling of St. John the Evangelist (London, Private Collection) dateable to 1635-6 it would appear that our picture was painted before it but after the Ponce picture.
Anna Barsanti, Una vita inedita del Furini, ‘Paragone’, 289, pp. 67-86, pp. 79-99.
Giuseppe Cantelli, in Il Seicento Fiorentino, Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, 1986-7, Vol. I, Cat. No. 130, where Cantelli questions Anna Barsanti’s acceptance of a dating of 1623-4.
Giuseppe Cantelli, Disegni di Francesco Furini e del suo ambiente, Florence, Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, 1972.
Giuseppe Cantelli, Disegni di Francesco Furini, (op. cit.) p. 26, Cat. No. 8.
Il Seicento Fiorentino, (op. cit.), Vo. 1, Cat. No. 134.

Oil on canvas

Private Collection, England;
Matthiesen Gallery, London, 1992.


G. Cantelli, Francesco Furini, forthcoming monograph in the course of publication.

Historical Period
Baroque - 1600-1720
Religious: New Testament
Italian - Tuscan
1993-Fifty Paintings 1535 - 1825.
To celebrate Ten Years of Collaboration between The Matthiesen Gallery, London, and Stair Sainty Matthiesen, New York. 216 pages, 50 colour plates, numerous black and white text illustrations £20 or $32 inc. p.& p.

(Click on image above)
Price band
$250,000 - $350,000