The flagellation of Christ, ca. 1450-55. Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino. In the context of Christian tradition, 'passion' refers to the events and subsequent suffering of Jesus in the hours leading up to his death by crucifixion.

The intensity of an artistic experience does not necessarily coincide with any clarity of understanding.
Ernst Gombrich [1909 - 2001], OM, CBE, art historian

The flagellation is a recurring motif in Christian art which depicts a scene from the passion of Christ. Traditionally, this setting features Jesus tied to a column while being flayed with a scourge or whip. In Francesca's portrayal of this event, however, the main focus is not on the flaying but on a grouping of three men who stand in the right foreground. Their identitites are not known though studies of the work have yielded several possibilities. Their relationship to the tragic event in the background is also not clear.

There is no documentation of who commissioned this artwork or the location of the commission. The creation date is only an approximation. The piece is small, a modest 23 x 32 inches, which supports the possibility that the painting was meant for private use. Earliest commentary on the piece suggests that the aim of the patron was to keep the true intention of the work enigmatic. Absent valid documentation, the patron, the identity of the foreground trio and the purpose of the painting remains a mystery.