Another version of the present lot is recorded in the Bob Jones Collection, Greenville, South Carolina, U.S.A, see, N. Spinosa, 'Pittura Napoletana del Settecento: dal Barocco al Rococo', Naples, Electa, 1988, p. 334, pl. 284.
Francesco de Mura was born in Naples in 1696. He showed great artistic talent at an early age and was to enter the workshop of Domenico Viola for a short period before entering the studio of Francesco Solimena, the most important artist in Naples in 1708. De Mura was to become one of Solimena's favourite and most trusted pupils, and by 1710 he was painting very much in his master's style, with strong colour and bold chiaroscuro.
The subject of the present lot is taken from John, ch. 19, v.4-6
'Then Jesus came forth, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them "Behold the Man!". When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried "Crucify him, Crucify him".
This hitherto unpublished bozzetto together with the picture in the Bob Jones collection are preparatory sketches for the larger composition in the Collegiata dell'Assunta, Casteldisangro, Isernia (Abruzzi). The Ecce Homo in the Collegiata formed part of the decoration with one other De Mura, Christ with Saint Veronica on the Road to Calvary, together with other works by Neapolitan artists such as De Matteis and Vaccaro. The Ecce Homo at Casteldisangro differs in composition from the present lot and the picture at Greenville most notably in the background landscape and the more ornate rendering of the balcony on which the bound Christ is presented to the people. Other differances to the pose of Christ and the inclination of the head can be noted, however the two bozzetti both have the same grouping of figures gathered below the balcony as the picture in the Collegiata dell'Assunta.
Nicola Spinosa in Pittura Napoletana del Settocento points out that religious painting at the begining of the eigtheenth century in Naples by artists such as De Mura, Solimena and Vaccaro used religious themes in a more dynamic way and the compositions were more associated in style to allegorical pictures. The prevailing classicism and the fusion of secular and sacred art can be seen in the Ecce Homo with the emphasis on the crowd gatherered below the helpless bound Christ effectively dividing the picture into two parts thus heightening the sense of drama and pathos.
Painted circa 1725-7.
We are grateful to Dr. Gino D'Alessio for confirming the attribution on the basis of photographs.