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The stripping of our Lord

The stripping of our Lord
Philip le Bas (1925- )



Methodist Collection of Modern Christian Art, No.20

Commentary by Francis Hoyland

Every Saturday during term time I teach at the Cardinal Wiseman School in Greenford - working with and for an old student of mine - Tom Davies, an artist, and perhaps the most brilliant and energetic teacher I have ever come across. I regard this as a great privilege.

The church to which the school is attached has fourteen Stations of the Cross painted by Le Bas and I have been familiar with them for a long time. They are heavy, inelegant images, dark in feeling but very direct and forceful. I have often longed for them to be filled with more light and air and I confess I have the same feeling about this image.

We believe that our salvation has been made possible by the suffering of Jesus. This suffering was entirely real and more painful than our own to the extent that Jesus was more completely human than ourselves and more sensitive.

But there is always something else, perhaps best summed up in another phrase from St John's gospel, "What shall I say : Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour."

There is something redemptive, consoling and healing about Our Lord's Passion and throughout his terrible ordeal Jesus was walking in His Father's will which gives immense dignity to these events.

Since this image is called 'The Stripping of Our Lord' which is one of the Stations of the Cross, I read it in this way. Christ is standing and the form to his right on the left of his chest is the helmet of a soldier, seen in perspective, who is tearing the robe from him - one can see this soldier's hand in the bottom right hand corner pulling at what might be a piece of the robe.

To the left of Christ another metal clad arm is visible. However, the image is ambiguous since Our Lord's side seems already to have been wounded - though this may have been caused by the scourging and it is not on his right side as Ezekiel said it would be when he wrote that 'the water flowed from under the right side of the temple.'

Another argument against this being a 'Disrobing' is that Our Lord could be seen as being already dead, so I think it is safest to regard this picture as a kind of synthesis of the Stations of the Cross, closely related to the Greenford set, possibly summing them up either before or after the main set was painted. It could even be one that he subsequently replaced.

The forms emerge from the spread of thick paint whose colour scheme is dominated by black and white. The density of the paint stands for the intensity of the artist's feeling and we empathise with it.

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