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The Agony in the Garden
Ambrogio Bergognone
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Christ kneels in prayer. He gazes up at an angel, who presents him with a chalice containing the instruments of the Passion (Christ’s torture and crucifixion). To the right, in a walled garden, three of the apostles sleep while a group of soldiers, led by Judas, peer furtively through an arched gateway. This is the Agony in the Garden, as told in the Gospel of Mark (14: 32–43).

Knowing he is going to die, Christ asks God to ‘take away this cup from me’. As he prays, the apostles repeatedly fall asleep – and fail to see the soldiers who have come to arrest Christ. Behind them dawn is breaking and the white clouds are lit from below by the rising sun.

This is one of a pair of small panels which were once part of a polyptych (multi-panelled altarpiece). The other, Christ carrying the Cross, is also in the National Gallery’s collection.

Key facts
Artist Ambrogio Bergognone
Artist dates active 1481; died 1523?
Full title The Agony in the Garden
Group Two Panels from an Altarpiece
Date made probably 1501
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 99.7 x 45.1 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1879
Inventory number NG1077.1
Location in Gallery Room 54
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Two Panels from an Altarpiece

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These two paintings of different episodes of the Passion (Christ’s torture and death) were once part of a triptych (a painting in three parts), along with The Virgin and Child with Two Angels, which is also in the National Gallery’s collection.

The three were not, however, made to go together. The two smaller panels of Christ may well have formed part of a multi-panelled altarpiece made by Ambrogio Bergognone in around 1501 (the date on one panel); the picture of the Virgin and Child is earlier, perhaps from the late 1480s, and is probably by Ambrogio’s brother, Bernardino.

Ambrogio Bergognone ran one of the leading painting workshops in Lombardy in the late fifteenth century, and his brother worked closely with him.

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