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“The Taking of Christ” by Caravaggio

The Taking of Christ-Caravaggio (c.1602)

“The Taking of Christ” by Caravaggio

“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 a soldier is grabbing his cloak.

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 in which the central group is comprised of Jesus, Judas and the soldier with an outstretched hand, resembling this version of 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 actual copies of this painting.  At least one is believed to be an original copy made by Caravaggio.

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 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.

Exploring

Reflections

  • What do you read into the actions of Christ’s hands in this painting?
  • The man holding the lantern is a self-portrait of Caravaggio. What role has he given himself?

The Taking of Christ

  • Title:                The Taking of Christ
  • Italian Title:     Presa di Cristo nell’orto or Cattura di Cristo
  • Artist:              Caravaggio
  • Created:          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

Caravaggio

  • 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:

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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