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Studio of El Greco, The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane

Key facts
Full title The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane
Artist Studio of El Greco
Artist dates 1541 - 1614
Date made 1590s
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 102 × 131 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1919
Inventory number NG3476
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane
Studio of El Greco

This work is based on an original by El Greco which now hangs in the Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio. It’s a scene of Christ in torment, moments before his arrest – we can see the soldiers coming for him to the right.

According to the Gospels, Christ retreated to the garden of Gethsemane to pray, asking God to spare him the ‘cup of suffering’ that he knew awaited him. Here an angel shrouded in supernatural light, stronger than that of the moon beyond, presents Christ with the cup. He is shown accepting his inevitable suffering.

When this painting was purchased as an El Greco in 1919, the National Gallery was accused of buying a picture by a madman: people were shocked by the acid colours and distorted forms that the artist used to heighten the picture’s emotional and spiritual drama.

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