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“The Taking of Christ” by Caravaggio

The Taking of Christ-Caravaggio (c.1602)

“The Taking of Christ” by Caravaggio depicts the arrest of Jesus just as Judas kisses Jesus to identify him for the soldiers. There are seven figures in the painting, they are John, Jesus, Judas, three soldiers and a man holding a lantern to the scene.

The figures are portrayed before a very dark background. The man at the right holding a lantern is believed to be a self-portrait of Caravaggio. At the far left, St John is fleeing as his cloak is being grabbed by a soldier.

The Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio would have had many influences on how he composed this masterpiece. One of these influences may have been a 1509 woodcut by Albrecht Dürer. Below can be seen the central group, composed of Jesus, Judas and the soldier with an outstretched hand, resembling this version of Caravaggio’s “The Taking of Christ”

Durer - Small Passion - 11 - Betrayal - detail

Woodcut by Albrecht Dürer may have inspired the central group in Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ.

This story from the New Testament was in high demand as a painting, as there are at least 12 known historical copies of this painting.  At least one is believed to be an original copy made by Caravaggio himself.

By the late 18th century, this original painting was thought to have disappeared, and its whereabouts remained unknown for about 200 years. In 1990, this lost masterpiece was recognised and discovered in the residence of the Society of Jesus in Dublin, Ireland. The painting had passed down through many owners but had long been considered a copy of the lost original by the various owners. After experts were asked to examine it for the purposes of restoration and the layers of dirt and discoloured varnish were removed, the technical quality of the painting was revealed and it was eventually identified as Caravaggio’s lost painting.

The painting is on indefinite loan to the National Gallery of Ireland from the Jesuit Community, Leeson Street, Dublin.

Essential Facts:

  • Title:                 The Taking of Christ
  • Italian Title:    Presa di Cristo nell’orto or Cattura di Cristo
  • Artist:               Caravaggio
  • Created:           c. 1602
  • Medium:         oil on canvas
  • Periods:           Baroque
  • Dimensions:   133.5 cm × 169.5 cm (52.6 in × 66.7 in)
  • Museum:         National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

Artist:

  • Name:           Michelangelo Merisi (Michele Angelo Merigi or Amerighi) da Caravaggio
  • Birth:             1571 – Milan, Duchy of Milan, Spanish Empire
  • Died:              1610 (aged 38) – Porto Ercole, Grand Duchy of Tuscany
  • Movement:   Baroque
    Masterpieces:

    • Death of the Virgin. 1601–1606. Louvre, Paris.
    • The Entombment of Christ, (1602–1603), Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome.
    • The Denial of Saint Peter (1610), Metropolitan Museum of Art
    • Supper at Emmaus, 1601. Oil on canvas, 139 cm × 195 cm (55 in × 77 in). National Gallery, London.
    • The Musicians, 1595–1596, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Leonardo da Vinci

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Photo Credit 1) Caravaggio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 2) Albrecht Dürer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons