Art History’s Best Mustaches: The 16th-Century Blue-Bearded Ceramic Jesus at the Getty

As our month-long journey through art history’s best mustaches — in recognition of the male cancer awareness campaign Movember — enters its third week, we’re going biblical with this startling painted ceramic bust of Jesus Christ from the Getty Center‘s permanent collection, “Ecce Homo” (ca. 1500). (Not to be confused with that other “Ecce Homo.”)

In the beautiful, bold-hued work — whose title refers to the moment when Pontius Pilate presented Jesus to the Jews with the exclamation “Ecce homo” (“Behold the man”) — Christ sports a close-cropped beard-mustache that’s somewhere between a ducktail and a close boxed beard. Its unusual blue tone, and the work’s generally vivid palette and shimmering glaze suggests it was the work of a Tuscan ceramicist working with a painter from Faenza.

The bust’s arresting and sightly downcast gaze — made all the more uncanny by the cool blue paints used for the figure’s irises — recalls a tight and lowered perspective typical of 15th-century devotional paintings. For an even more visceral impact, the sculpture is marked with holes around the top of its head, so that a rel crown of thorns could be placed on top when it was displayed.

— Benjamin Sutton

(Image: Unknown artist, “Ecce Homo,” ca. 1500, courtesy the Getty Center, the J. Paul Getty Museum.)