Titian's striking painting The Mocking of Christ was developed from around 1570 onwards. The original painting is housed in the Saint Louis Art Museum in the U.S. and was never fully finished by the artist as evidenced by a less developed area on the upper left of the picture.
Titian was nearing the end of his career when the original artwork was commissioned by Guidobaldo II della Rovere - the Duke of Urbino, and the painting was passed down through his family eventually being purchased by other buyers and finally sold to the Saint Louis Art Museum in 1936. Such was Titian's fame at the time of the painting that he was constantly in demand for commissioned artwork from popes and other religious figures, as well as secular clients who greatly admired his themes and artistry.
Titian had become one of the most illustrious and celebrated artists of his time due to the sensitive and emotional depth of his subjects and the assured mastery of his brushwork, as well as his palette with more subdued hues. This particular painting illustrates Titian's ability to portray striking contrasts, and the opulence of Pontius Pilate with his extravagant dress and accompanied by his smiling page show off the humility and simplicity of Christ to perfection. The downcast eyes and melancholy look of the nearly naked Christ figure in contrast to the other two figures, show how skilled Titian was at evoking strong emotions and compassion in his depictions of religious scenes. In Pontius Pilate's upturned hand we sense the crowds in front of them who will soon decide on the fate of Christ.
Born and schooled in Venice, Titian became one of the most adaptable painters of his time, applying his talent to themes from landscapes to religious and mythological subjects and his style also came to influence later painters of the Renaissance era. Showing talent from an early age, Titian's artistic style had matured and changed by the time he worked on The Mocking of Christ and other similar religious themed paintings. Initially apprenticed to the painter Bellini at an early age, he then joined another artist Giorgione as an assistant. However, Titian later experienced his main period of growth developing his own style and becoming ever more perfectionist in his latter years. The colours in his paintings became gradually more subdued and emotionally intense than some of his earlier works.
The painting represents a slightly more sombre style that Titian adopted at the end of his life with his very last painting also showing the suffering of Christ in the Pietà - another of several paintings left unfinished by the artist before Titian succumbed to the plague that ravaged Venice in 1776. Like other artwork developed by Titian during this final period the style of these religious paintings is very distinctive. Bold but more impressionistic brush strokes are deployed, and the artist began to keep works in his studio for long periods of time continually working on them and retouching.