El Greco
The Disrobing of Christ

Oil on canvas
Toledo Cathedral

El Greco sets the scene on Golgotha, where Mary and Mary Magdalene in the lower left corner watch a workman drill a starter hole in the cross.

The artist has reimagined the scene somewhat. In the gospels the removal of the scarlet cloak took place in the praetorium, before Jesus was taken out to be crucified: "Then he [Pilate] released to them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him unto them to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor taking Jesus into the hall gathered together unto him the whole band; And stripping him, they put a scarlet cloak about him.… And after they had mocked him, they took off the cloak from him, and put on him his own garments, and led him away to crucify him" (Matthew 27:27-28, 31, c.f. Mark 15:16-20, John 19:2).

Jesus' own clothes are not mentioned again until after he has been crucified (Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, John 19:23).

The nail holes are not in scripture, but Bridget of Sweden has them in her 14th-century account of the Crucifixion (Prophecies and Revelations, I, 10). The popularity of her account may explain the appearance of the holes in such varied works as this painting and the 15th-century York Crucifixion play, where one of the soldiers boasts (39-40) that

"The crosse on grounde is goodely graied prepared
And boorede bored even as it awith ought to be"
     (Bevington, 571).

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Read more about the trial before Pilate and about the Crucifixion.

Photographed at the cathedral by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.