Christ Mocked by a Dwarf
Oil on wooden panel
The Mocking of Jesus is a motif in blood red running through Christian art. Some visual interpretations of the Passion narratives of Christ’s psychological and physical abuse emphasize his humiliation, as in Mattheus Grunwald’s Mocking of Christ, where Jesus appears trussed and blindfolded, the innocent Lamb of God about to be led to the slaughter. Other works, like Ruben’s Flagellation of Christ, focus on his bodily suffering, touching some deep-rooted, atavistic bloodlust in all of humanity. As disturbing as these images may be, few of them evoke Christ’s utter shame for me so well as American Artist Edward Knipper’s oil on wood panel painting, Christ Mocked by a Dwarf, where we see Jesus, the bound Colossus, standing humbled with bowed head before a posturing imp, whose plump little body is stretched to full height, as he savors his moment of triumph. Knippers is famous for painting his figures in the nude to emphasis the incarnation, when God glorified the body by taking on human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. In this scene, however, Jesus, the Second Adam come to redeem fallen humanity, lowers his tied hands to cover his genitals, as if he sees himself as naked for the first time like our primal parents in the Garden of Eden. Knippers has set this scene for two in a sun-scorched wasteland, suggesting the story of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness. This dwarf might well be Satan, come back to remind the thorn-crowned Christ of his once rejected offer of all the kingdoms of the world. He teasingly plays with a palm branch, recalling the adulatory shouts of the fickle crowd, which had accompanied Jesus on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, ready to proclaim him king. A court jester taunting the King of Kings.