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The Betrayal of Christ
Ugolino di Nerio
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This panel is one of four in our collection that come from the lowest part of an altarpiece (the predella) made for the church of Santa Croce in Florence. It shows the moment, described in the Gospels, when Jesus Christ was arrested by Roman soldiers. The soldiers are on the right in elaborate armour; their helmets were originally silver but the silver leaf has darkened over time. They were accompanied by chief priests from the Jewish Temple – the bearded men on the left of the scene.

The arrest was organised by Christ’s disciple Judas. We see him in the centre of the scene, kissing Jesus on the cheek – a prearranged signal for the authorities: ‘The one I shall kiss is the man; seize him and lead him away under guard’ (Mark 14: 44–45). As this is happening, Jesus raises his hand to rebuke Saint Peter, as he sees him assaulting one of the men.

Key facts
Artist Ugolino di Nerio
Artist dates documented 1317-27; died possibly 1329
Full title The Betrayal of Christ
Series The Santa Croce Altarpiece
Date made possibly 1325-8
Medium and support Egg tempera on poplar
Dimensions 40.4 x 58.8 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1885
Inventory number NG1188
Location in Gallery Room 52
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The Santa Croce Altarpiece

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These panels were once part of a large altarpiece which adorned the high altar of the church of Santa Croce in Florence. It focused on the Passion of Christ (his torture and crucifixion) and the Resurrection – an appropriate theme, as the church was dedicated to the Holy Cross.

Drawings made in the late eighteenth century show how it was arranged originally. There were four tiers of images: the main tier had a central image of the Virgin and Child flanked by images of the saints within arches, which were decorated with angels (there are two sets of these in the National Gallery’s collection).

Above was a row of saints framed in pairs; we hold two pairs. The uppermost tier consisted of six pinnacle panels, three on either side of a central image which probably showed the Crucifixion, itself topped by an image of Christ making a blessing gesture. The predella (the lowest layer) consisted of seven scenes showing Christ’s suffering and death; we have four of these.

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