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Giovanni Bellini, The Agony in the Garden

Key facts
Full title The Agony in the Garden
Artist Giovanni Bellini
Artist dates about 1435 - 1516
Date made about 1458-60
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 80.4 × 127 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1863
Inventory number NG726
Location Room 29
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Agony in the Garden
Giovanni Bellini

Christ’s disciple Judas – visible just beyond the river, leading a group of soldiers to Christ – has betrayed him. Aware of his imminent arrest and death, Christ prays; a cherub appears and presents him with a chalice. The chalice refers to the words of his prayer: ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt’ (Matthew 26: 39).

Here Bellini experiments with the style of his brother-in-law, Andrea Mantegna: the rock forms in the foreground on the left have straight edges and look, like Mantegna’s, as though they have been carved with a chisel. The draperies, too, resemble Mantegna’s in their crisp sharp folds.

Christ’s pink tunic blends with the peach light of the dawn sky, which highlights the undersides of the plump clouds. Bellini would continue to develop his extraordinary sensitivity for the changing effects of light on landscapes throughout his career.

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