William-Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)
charcoal on gray, moderately thick, moderately textured wove paper
Sheet: H: 17 × W: 11 3/4 in. (43.2 × 29.8 cm)
image and text from: art.thewalters
Viewers today are struck by the overtly sexual nature of the work, which is, in part, the result of its intimate scale and monochromatic treatment. The emphatic handling of the contours, the precise modeling that articulates the male anatomy of the executioners, the strict profile and rigid pose of the man just off center contrasted with the limp body of Christ and the arrangement of heavily draped voyeurs hint at something vaguely homoerotic. Many critics of the period noted with some alarm the youth and feminine abandon of the Christ figure. And it is worth mentioning that late 19th-century slang for a young male prostitute was "petit Jesus." The connection between sensuality, sadism, and religious fervor apparent in this drawing is shared with more exotic works, such as Bida's "Ceremony of Dosseh" (WAM 37.901).