Turner exhibited this picture at the Royal Academy in 1830, with a quotation from St. Matthew, xxvii, 24. Pilate 'washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person'.
This is one of several paintings from the 1830s in which Turner explored aspects
of Rembrandt's colouring and biblical subject matter. However, he may also have been motivated by Wilkie's pictures in the style of Rembrandt. In particular, Turner had seen Wilkie's oil sketch of
Knox preaching in Lord Egremont's collection at Petworth. Wilkie's finished painting is shown in this room.