||The painting depicts the moment when Christ, wearing the crown of thorns and carrying a reed as a sceptre, is being mocked by his guards and the high priests. Christ is shown in the centre of the image, his hands falling away to the right and the reed sceptre dropping from his grip. Behind him and to the right, is a man in armour, one of the guards. To the left, behind Christ, is a man dressed in the manner of a high priest; he is in the action of reaching around Christ's body, pointing down at the sceptre. He appears to be speaking; presumably the phrase of the title, ‘Hail, King of the Jews.'
The attribution to van Dyck by Milne-Hendersen and others appears to be based on the superficial similarity between this painting and the Ecce Homo by van Dyck in the Barber Institute, Birmingham. Although this painting is certainly influenced by his particular treatment of the subject, the composition is original and not related to, or copied from, any extant version of the subject by van Dyck. There are significant stylistic differences and an Italian influence that suggests that the painting is probably by a 17th century Genoese artist, influenced by van Dyck's stay in that city.
The attribution to Langetti is more promising, though difficult to establish with any degree of certainty; there are a number of things for and against it. Firstly, it would be fair to say that Langetti used a limited range of subject-matter and serialised it incessantly. He tended towards violent, rather morbid, paintings. The good Samaritan, the death of Cato, (or any philosopher meeting a sticky end), Joseph in prison, Samson, were all typically his favourite topics. So this painting would appear to be unique in his oeuvre. On the other hand the style is typical of Langetti; the composition crowded with figures, the threatening heads looming over the victim, all can be seen in many of his paintings, like the Diogenes and Alexander in the Querini Stampalia (n. 141/139). This painting also reveals the degree to which he re-used a standard set of poses and gestures over and over; the painting is identical to portions of his Archimedes with allegorical figures of Peace and War (photo in the National Gallery Photographic Library, unknown Sotheby's sale), and some of these characteristic motifs may be found in the Ecce Homo - the gesture of Diogenes's right hand is copied by the high priest mocking Christ, for example. Or the similarity between Christ's tied hands and the chained hands of Joseph in Joseph interpreting Dreams (National Gallery Photographic Library, Cooper neg. 712124). If we look at The Good Samaritan, now in Osterly Park House, we can see a similar approach to the anatomy of the male torso; classically inspired, naturalistic, but depicted in a rather exaggerated, grotesque, fashion. Indeed, what seems uncharacteristic of Langetti in the Ecce Homo is the restraint and relative lack of melodrama in the composition, as one would expect him to milk more emotional currency out of this subject. On balance, and particularly when considering the general composition and the details of gestures, ‘circle of' Langetti might be a reasonable attribution and mid-17th century would be the date.
Originally exhibited at the Mere Hall Museum 1898-1903, as listed in the catalogues for that period. First appears in the 1898 catalogue: ‘No. 34 §Hail! King of the Jews§ Attributed to A. Vandyck or his pupils. Presented by T. Wilkinson, Esq., J.P.' (Mere Hall Art and Industrial Museum, Thomasson Park. Catalogue of Paintings, Statuary, Industrial Products, Machinery, Etc., Bolton 1898.)