BYU Acquires Christ-Themed Bloch Painting

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 26 June 2015

Danish artist Carl Bloch painted The Mocking of Christ in 1880. The piece was recently donated to the BYU Museum of Art.

Article Highlights

  • The BYU Museum of Art has held many of Carl Bloch’s pieces.
  • The new piece depicts mortal Jesus in the hours prior to His Crucifixion, with a soldier tormenting Him.
  • Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley purchased The Mocking of Christ for the museum.

“If you were to [travel across] a 50-mile radius from where we stand here today, you could find 100,000 people for whom Carl Bloch is a household name.” —Mark Magleby, director of the Brigham Young University Museum of Art

PROVO, UTAH

The painter Carl Bloch died more than a century before the opening of Brigham Young University’s Museum of Art. Still, the revered religious artist has become almost synonymous with the popular facility at the Church-owned school.

The museum acquired its flagship work of art, Bloch’s Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda, more than a decade ago. And in recent years, thousands have viewed a pair of exhibitions—Carl Bloch: The Master’s Hand and Sacred Gifts—that prominently featured the works of the Danish master.

Now BYU has added another Christ-themed Bloch work to its collection.

At a June 4 press conference, the museum unveiled his 1880 piece The Mocking of Christ. Rendered in dark tones, the painting depicts the mortal Jesus in the hours prior to His Crucifixion. Tormenting the Lord at His side is a leering soldier. But Christ ignores His mocker. Instead, He locks His gaze on the viewer. His divine countenance seems to implore, “Will you also mock me?” “Will you waste my offering?”

Folks familiar with Bloch’s religious work will recognize the painting’s subject matter. A similar, slightly larger version of The Mocking of Christ is owned by Denmark’s Ordrup Church.

For Latter-day Saints, Bloch’s paintings are beloved and often found on the walls of meetinghouses and in the pages of Church publications.

“If you were to [travel across] a 50-mile radius from where we stand here today, you could find 100,000 people for whom Carl Bloch is a household name,” said the museum’s director, Mark Magleby.

Acquiring the piece is cause for celebration at the Museum of Art. Danish art dealer Peter Titelbech, who participated in the press conference, discovered the painting and played a pivotal role in its placement at BYU. It had previously been in a private collection after being sold at auction eight decades ago.

Mr. Titelbech said the artist would have been uneasy with the posthumous acclaim he has received at the museum and beyond.

“Carl Bloch was a very humble man,” he said. “Not a trace of vanity.”

Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley purchased The Mocking of Christ for the museum. The Wheatleys are proven friends of BYU. The couple also bought Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda for the school over a decade ago.

Their son, Charles Wheatley, represented the family at the press conference. It’s his hope that viewers will study The Mocking of Christ with spiritually sensitive eyes “and take upon themselves a commitment to live the way they should be living.”

BYU’s latest acquisition was available for public viewing for just a few hours. The painting will undergo conservation work to prepare it for long-term display at the museum.

Curators and patrons at BYU’s Museum of Art discuss the newly acquired Carl Bloch painting The Mocking of Christ.