Depictions of the subject of Ecce Homo and the Virgin of Sorrows bear witness to the major development of Passion imagery in the Spanish Baroque, second only to the central episode of Christian art, Christ on the cross. The subject we are dealing with here was, in turn, particularly significant in the Granada school, the context into which we can slot Pedro de Mena’s early artistic period or stage.
These types of devotional Passion images were part of the religious worship of the day, and were adapted to the demands and requirements of the Council of Trent, the famous decree dealing with the worship and veneration of holy images, partly conceived of as a way of highlighting the painful aspects of the Passion in order to elicit an emotive response in believers. Pedro de Mena adapted his art to these exigencies with sublime skill, working the most expressive elements in an exceptional fashion and creating works that invited the viewer to prayer. His sculptures were intended to be venerated in the privacy of chapels, convents and palaces, with the aim of maximizing their emotional charge and encouraging an intimate visual connection and communication between the believer and the image depicted.