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Trial of Christ

English oak Panel of Christ before Pontius Pilate, c.1500.

After his betrayal and arrest, Christ was brought before Annas, his hands bound, to be questioned about his teaching.  After that he appeared before the High Priest, Caiaphas, (son-in-law to Annas), whom he told he was the awaited Messiah and the Son of God; this constituted blasphemy under Jewish law and was punishable by death.  The next to examine him were Pontius Pilate and Herod, Pilate wishing to free Christ for lack of evidence, but the Jews clamoured for the death sentence to which Pilate eventually agreed, fearing a riot.

This panel shows Christ before Pontius Pilate, the large figure on the left, who is washing his hands in a basin held by a servant who stands beneath him.  Pilate had given way to the wishes of the Jews but washed his hands in public to signify his refusal to be morally implicated in the decision.