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Andrea Mantegna, The Agony in the Garden

Key facts
Full title The Agony in the Garden
Artist Andrea Mantegna
Artist dates about 1431 - 1506
Date made about 1455-6
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 62.9 × 80 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1894
Inventory number NG1417
Location Room 29
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Agony in the Garden
Andrea Mantegna

Christ prays before a group of cherubs who hold up the instruments of his torture and death. His disciple Judas, who has betrayed him, leads a large band of soldiers down from Jerusalem to arrest him. Meanwhile his other disciples sleep.

This painting reflects many of the artistic issues that would preoccupy Mantegna throughout his career. He was fascinated by the art of classical antiquity: the disciples here look like statues of Roman emperors in togas. One lies with his legs facing straight out at the viewer, a difficult pose to paint; Mantegna enjoyed experimenting with it for its ability to draw us into the picture.

He skilfully uses the landscape setting to tell the story in a single image, the march of the soldiers from the city gates creating drama and suggesting the passage of time. He uses his favoured fast-drying egg tempera paint (pigments bound with egg) to describe minute details like the individual bricks of the city walls.

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