William Bouguereau - The Flagellation of Christ  on Flickr.
The Flagellation of Christ, 1880 is one of Bouguereau’s masterpieces, and today hangs at the Baptistery of La Rochelle Cathedral, France. Christ, tied to a column, limply hangs, his feet dragging on the ground and head hung back, he submits to his fate. Two men stand in mid swing with their whipping ropes, with a third kneeling to the lower right fastening birch branches for the next stage of the torture. Unlike the two men who are whipping or the forth man standing behind with birch branches in the ready, the kneeling man tying the branches appears to show some remorse for his actions as his hand muscles loosen slightly with the pull of the string.
The viewer can feel the pain of Christ’s torment, though his eyes are vacant of expression as if his soul is in another place. The crowd surrounding this event is filled with curious spectators. To the left, a young boy shelters his eyes from the horrid sight by turning his back and pressing himself against his mother. To the right, just above Christ’s head, a baby looks down at him sympathetically while hoisted up on his father’s shoulders. Through the crowd, a bearded man looks directly at the viewer, thereby pulling the audience into the scene as if they are too part of the crowd. It is possible that this bearded man with furrowed brow is a self portrait, so both Bouguereau and the viewer are witnessing this scene.
[Baptistery, Cathedral of La Rochelle - Oil on canvas, 309 x 212 cm]