Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Taking of Christ

Title: The Taking of Christ

Artist: Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

Medium: oil on canvas

Size: 133.5 cm × 169.5 cm

Date: c. 1602

Location: National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.

This painting represents Jesus Christ being captured in the Garden of Gethsemane by soldiers who were led to him by one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot. Tempted by the promise of financial reward, Judas agreed to identify his master by kissing him: "Arrest the man I greet with a kiss. Tie him up tight and lead him away." (Mark 14:44). Caravaggio focuses on the culminating moment of Judas’ betrayal, as he grasps Christ and delivers his treacherous kiss.

At the center of the composition, the soldier’s cold armor contrasts with the vulnerability of the defenseless Christ who accepts his fate with humility. He offers no resistance while the soldiers move in to capture him. Caravaggio presents the scene as if it were a frozen moment, to which the over-crowded composition and violent gestures contribute dramatic impact. This is further intensified by the strong lighting, which focuses attention on the contrasting faces of Jesus and Judas. Both are presented against the blood-red drapery of the background, reinforcing the paintings great psychological depth. Likewise, the terrorized expression and gesture of the fleeing man, perhaps another of Christ’s disciples, convey the emotional intensity of the moment.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, (29 September 1571 – 18 July 1610) was an Italian artist active between 1593 and 1610. He was the first great representative of the Baroque school of painting, noted for his intensely emotional canvases and dramatic use of lighting. Famous and extremely influential while he lived, Caravaggio was almost entirely forgotten in the centuries after his death. Only in the 20th century was his importance to the development of Western art rediscovered.

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