Veronese was one of a triumvirate of competing yet mutually influencing, transcendently great artists who dominated painting in Venice in the second half of the sixteenth century, the other two being Titian and Tintoretto. Titian defined the comprehensive terms of the Venetian variant of the High Renaissance, with its rich colourism, grand and idealized forms emerging within a palpable atmosphere. Veronese, born a generation and a half later than the great master, appreciated the appeal to the tactile sumptuousness of rich surfaces, and the visual stimulation of the juxtaposition of colours. In his late works his previously resplendent colours became increasingly denser and darker and a new emotional resonance, even poignance enters, his work, as in this painting executed in the last years of his life.
In the 1580s, Veronese executed some of his most moving and personal compositions, often simplified to single figures, featuring a dark, introspective tonalism. In the period of the Counter-Reformation, immediately following the Council of Trent, a tense political climate existed in Venice, resulting from a series of serious defeats from and battles with the Ottoman Turks. Venice, already a city of profound religious faith and many public religious activities, became even more intensely pious. This piety was enhanced by a series of plagues, including a particularly virulent one in 1576. It is in this ambience that the Christ Crowned with Thorns was created.