Gaze of Dignity

Noah Furneri ’21, a current Master of Theological Studies student at the University of Notre Dame, contemplates the sculpture Bound Christ by Giacomo Manzù, which stands quietly to the side of the open atrium in the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art.

Against the backdrop of the prevailing forces of twentieth-century abstract art, Giacomo Manzu emerged as one of the leading artists of the Italian avant-garde. Manzù is widely celebrated for his 1940s series about the death of Christ, taking an artistic stand against the fascist regimes of the time. He had close personal relationships with Pope Saint John XXIII and Pope Saint Paul VI. 

This statue is a unique bronze. It is easy to see the clear link to Christian imagery, but Manzù also implicitly references the nature of all human fragility and poverty in the face of suffering and subjugation. Absent the traditional crown of thorns and physical evidence of bodily torture, this figure reads as any captive, slave, or prisoner might appear, maintaining an upright posture and forward gaze of dignity rather than defeat. 

Ecce Homo or “Behold the Man” is the famous line from the gospels after Jesus had just been scourged. Pontius Pilot presents Christ to the angry crowds, hoping that they will be satisfied with the severe punishment Jesus received, but they instead clamor for his death. 

On this Good Friday, may we prayerfully contemplate not only Christ’s ultimate sacrifice but also how his offering restores our human dignity. Whether captive to our sins, our pride, or harm inflicted by others, we are redeemed by Christ, who became one with our suffering. Now, our human condition is no longer a source of shame or separation. Christ’s redeeming love loosens our bonds, heals our wounds, and leads us to lasting freedom.

This Lent, ThinkND invites you to join FaithND and the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art for a journey of Lenten discovery through some of the most significant liturgical paintings in the Raclin Murphy collection, challenging you to contemplate prayer, fasting, sinfulness, mercy, grace, and God’s infinite love from the perspectives of the artist’s gaze. To subscribe to the FaithND Daily Gospel Reflection visit

Giacomo Manzù, Bound Christ (Ecce Homo), 1951, Bronze. Raclin Murphy Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame. Acquisition grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., 2021.008.

For closer viewing of this work through the digital collections of the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art, please click here.

Art and HistoryReligion and PhilosophyAsh WednesdayBound ChristDigest184Digest274EucharistFaithNDGiacomo ManzùGood FridayHoly WeekLentRaclin Murphy Museum of ArtThe Passion

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