Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Christ before the High Priest

Title: Christ before the High Priest

Artist: Gerrit van Honthorst

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 272 x 183 cm

Date: c. 1617

Location: National Gallery, London.

As recorded in John 18:19-20, after Jesus had been arrested, the detachment of soldiers and Jewish officials brought him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. "I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said."

This is one of the most famous paintings made by Honthorst in Rome, and shows the powerful influence of Caravaggio. The scene is focused on the burning candle in the centre of the composition, and beside it the arm and raised finger of the High Priest. Under Jewish law a claim to be the Messiah was punishable by death, and the book on the table in front of the High Priest contains the proscriptions of the Mosaic Law. The painting is concentrated in theme, lacking the anecdotal character that affected the work of the majority of Caravaggio's followers. In this respect, it approaches the directness of Caravaggio's own later work.

Gerrit van Honthorst (November 4, 1592 - April 27, 1656), also known as Gerard van Honthorst and in Italy as Gherardo delle Notti for his nighttime candlelit subjects, was a Dutch painter of Utrecht. According to van Honthorst's biographer, Joachim von Sandrart, the patron of Christ before the High Priest was the Marchese Vincenzo Guistiniani, in whose palace the artist stayed during his years in Rome. Honthorst may have moved to Rome as early as 1610, but was home again about 1620 and set up a school at Utrecht which flourished exceedingly.

No comments:

Post a Comment