Christ Crowned with Thorns



Annibale Carracci, Italian, 1560-1609


Christ Crowned with Thorns




6 15/16 x 5 3/16 in. (17.6 x 13.2 cm)

Object Number



Carracci is credited with the "reform" of Italian painting at the end of the sixteenth century, moving away from the artificiality of Mannerism to a more direct and natural style. Carracci went to Rome from his native Bologna in 1595. There, he created his greatest work, the mythological fresco cycle on the ceiling of the Galleria Farnese, an accomplishment comparable to Michelangelo's ceiling in the Sistine Chapel.

Unhappily, as Carracci's biographers relate, the artist was paid an insultingly low wage for this magnificent work, and this blow is said to have been the cause of the deep melancholy from which he suffered for the rest of his life. This etching, Christ Crowned with Thorns, dates from the year immediately following the completion of the Farnese ceiling. It is thought that the stark and somber nature of the image's setting is due to Carracci's depression as well as to the subject matter.

In this print, the artist has depicted the faces of Christ's tormentors in a grotesque fashion, their physical ugliness making manifest their cruelty and evil. Earlier in his career, around 1590, Carracci had invented the art of caricature, making humorous portraits that exaggerated his subject's physical traits in order to emphasize certain aspects of their personalities. Here, however, late in his life, this aptitude for a telling portrayal is used to a darker effect.

Credit Line

Museum purchase


Old Masters: Highlights of the Works on Paper Collection, Michael C. Carlos Museum, August 15 - December 6, 2009|
A Harlot's Progress: Hogarth's Comic History, Michael C. Carlos Museum, October 1 - December 4, 2011
MCCM Newsletter, September - November, 2009.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2008.
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Annibale Carracci, Italian, 1560-1609, “Christ Crowned with Thorns,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed April 5, 2020,

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