The betrayal and arrest of Christ in Getsemane
History of the painting
This painting is a preliminary study for a larger painting, a so-called modello in a nearly monochromatic, dark palette. It dramatically depicts the evangelical text on the aftermath of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, when Jesus is taken prisoner in Gethsemane by the guards of the pharisees and high priests.
Matthew (26:47-56) recounts how Judas betrayed Jesus by telling the guards: “Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.” The story is most elaborately told in John (18:1-11). This mentioned the guards’ lanterns, torches, and weapons, and the story of Peter's reaction: “Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus.”
In the painting, night has fallen over Gethsemane. In the foreground Peter draws his sword, whilst Malchus falls to the ground and tries to ward off the blow. In the background we see the traitor Judas kiss Jesus, whilst the soldiers stream in, in large numbers.
The Malchus figures is used in other paintings by Jordaens. In another context all together he appears as a soldier in the foreground of a tapestry of the battle of Alexander the Great. Jordaens made a cartoon of the scene around 1630-35.
Written by Eva de la Fuente Pedersen.
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