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Jesus in the Praetorium (Painting)

Jesus in the Praetorium; Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.Artist/Maker: Copy after 1527 original by Jan Gossaert ["Malbodius"] (1478-1533|6)[1]

Origin/Purchase: Paris

Materials: oil on wood

Dimensions: 95.3 x 71.1 (37 1/2 x 28 inches)

Location: Entrance Hall

Provenance: Thomas Jefferson; by purchase to an unidentified buyer at the Harding Gallery sale in 1833; by gift from Louis Durr to the New York Historical Society in 1882; by Massachusetts Historical Society; by purchase to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1996

Accession Number:' 1947-5

Historical Notes: Thomas Jefferson acquired this copy while he was in France, as it appeared on a brief list of his collection that he prepared in 1789. At that time he identified it as an "original Malbodius." In his later Catalogue of Paintings Jefferson described this work as:

"Jesus in the Praetorium, stripped of the purple, as yet naked, and with the crown of thorns on his head. He is sitting. A whole length figure of about 4. feet. The persons present seem to be one of his revilers, one of his followers, and the superintendent of the execution. The subject from Mark 15:16-20. An original on wood, by M[albo]dius."[2]


  1. This article is based on Stein, Worlds, 146.
  2. The catalogue is in a Private Collection.


William Jr's picture
Here, we see Jesus as he is, without the pomp and circumstance of politicized Christianity. Religion is above words. Jefferson did not embrace the concept of "Holy Spirit" as that power was exploited for political pursuits in Jefferson's day. It also cannot be denied that the arts and gardens at Monticello have spiritual qualities with implications of Nature's God, Benevolent Creator, Divine Providence that cannot easily be exploited as they theologically qualify as religious symbols: 1) they cause action and discussion, 2) are not invented, they just happened, 3) are necessary to bring understanding to concepts relevant to Jefferson's faith. *** Jefferson's religion can only be approached with a truly open mind. Some Christians find concepts like the Holy Spirit as necessary for understanding the spiritual elements of Jefferson's private, personal and individual brand of Christianity. As the Holy Spirit is known to express itself as the feeling of feelings; it is a difficult concept to explain to non-believers in academic circles when Religion is not respected as a Department of the Humanities, or, when religion is reduced to ethics. (emphasis added)
William Green


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