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The Agony in the Garden (Christ on the Mount of Olives)

Andrea Mantegna • Painting, 1460, 62.9×80 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Religious scene
Style of art: Renaissance
Technique: Tempera
Materials: Wood
Date of creation: 1460
Size: 62.9×80 cm
Artwork in selections: 11 selections

Description of the artwork «The Agony in the Garden (Christ on the Mount of Olives)»

"The Agony in the Garden” is typical of Andrea Mantegna's early style. The image was painted on the right predella of the altarpiece of the San Zeno Maggiore Basilica in Verona; now it can now be seen at the National Gallery in London.

What is the secret of the emotional impact of Mantegna’s painting?

“The Agony in the Garden” conveys the mood of doom to the viewer with a special suggestive force. Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane is terribly lonely. The apostles who accompanied Him fell asleep side by side with their mouths open at the foot of the mountain instead of serving Him and protecting Him. A black scavenger raven on a semi-dry tree, bristling with sharp branches, portends terrible things, or just waits. The scurrying rabbits symbolize the weakness of human flesh. The landscape of Jerusalem walls and rugged rocky mountains is harsh and deserted. The dark sky is gloomy and heavy. Somewhere in the distance, Judas is already leading the executioners, who in a few moments will take the Saviour into custody. The five angels, whom Jesus probably appealed to as mediators between Him and His Heavenly Father, hold out a cross to Him in response to His prayers. Even the rock tilted, as if intending to push Christ down.

Mantegna carefully paints the smallest detail of the picture (which is why his early style is sometimes reproached for pettiness). But precisely these accumulated details create such an artistic effect. The person praying in the temple, looking at the fresco, can see with his own eyes how Christ was painfully alone in the Garden of Gethsemane. Thus, the viewer understands more sharply what made the Son of God fearful and pray to the Father to “let this cup pass” from Him.

Author: Anna Vchorashnia