Pilate Washing His Hands

Artist: Mattia Preti (Il Cavalier Calabrese) (Italian, Taverna 1613–1699 Valletta)

Date: 1663

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 81 1/8 x 72 3/4 in. (206.1 x 184.8 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Purchase, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan and Bequest of Helena W. Charlton, by exchange, Gwynne Andrews, Marquand, Rogers, Victor Wilbour Memorial, and The Alfred N. Punnett Endowment Funds, and funds given or bequeathed by friends of the Museum, 1978

Accession Number: 1978.402


The painting illustrates the episode in the Gospel of Matthew, in which Pontius Pilate, after having tried to save Christ from death, washed his hands and declared "I am innocent of the blood of this righteous person." The canvas is mentioned in two letters addressed by Preti to the Sicilian collector Antonio Ruffo in 1663. It was not purchased by Ruffo—who owned Rembrandt’s Aristotle with a Bust of Homer—but may have been in the collection of the Rospigliosi family in Rome. Preti moved to Malta in 1661 and the picture dates from his stay on the island.