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The Agony in the Garden by Mantegna

The Agony in the Garden by Mantegna

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The Agony in the Garden by Mantegna - History

Andrea Mantegna, The Agony in the Garden, about 1458-60, The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London

In 1453, Mantegna married Nicolosia, Giovanni Bellini&rsquos sister, thus forming close links with the most important painting workshop in Venice, run by his father-in-law Jacopo Bellini. The intense exchanges of ideas between the two brothers-in-law and the resulting influences were to have fundamental repercussions on the destinies of painting in Northern Italy.
Both he and his new brother in law, Giovanni Bellini, used a drawing of Jacopo's as a basis for an Agony in the Garden (c 1455, both London, National Gallery): a comparison of the two reveals the fundamental difference between Mantegna's sculptural conception and the new conception, that of forms modelled by colour and light, their edges softened by atmosphere, that Giovanni was to evolve for Venetian painting.

If Jacopo remains faithful to his visionary landscapes, to the late Gothic world, Giovanni shows himself, early on, receptive to Donatello&rsquos art, for example in the predella relating episodes of the life of Drusiana. The miniatures of the Passion of Saint Maurice, Strabo&rsquos Geography and of the Madonna of Pavia also show Mantegna&rsquos ascendancy, but this was to be short-lived. As from 1460, with the moving Blessing Christ which, with its brilliant matter and pathetic inspiration, testifies the seduction exercised by the Flemish masters, in particular Rogier van der Weyden, Giovanni is in complete possession of a personal style.

Of the different figures making up the Saint Luke altarpiece, undertaken by Mantegna in 1453, the Saint Justina shows best Giovanni Bellini&rsquos tender vein, as does the Virgin and Child with two saints whose style places it in the same period.

Angels bearing the Instruments of the Passion appear to Christ at prayer. The disciples sleep. In the background Judas comes with soldiers to arrest Christ. The dead tree and vulture may indicate death. New growth and the pelicans are perhaps hopeful signs for the future. Jerusalem (which is represented here as a walled city), and which was then under Roman rule, includes an equestrian statue, a column with relief sculpture, and a theatre like the Colosseum, all inspired by monuments surviving in Rome.

The other version of this picture by Mantegna is in Tours (Musée des Beaux-Arts) and is firmly dated to 1457-9, although the composition is in reverse, and the disciples differently arranged.

The National Gallery picture is probably a little later in date. It is more fluent as a composition and more dramatic in presentation, with a more effective relationship between figures and landscape. [1]

Andrea Mantegna, The Agony in the Garden, 1457-1459, Tours, Musée des Beaux-arts

The three predella panels show his fascination for the art of Flemish masters, examples of which he could have seen in Venetia: as in the Adoration of the Shepherds he multiplies realistic notations. The deep sense of nature transpiring here, the gentleness of some personages owe much to Giovanni Bellini, to whom Mantegna is still very close. But after this moment of intense poetry, he returns to a more austere and cerebral style, adopted a few years earlier in the Agony in the Garden in London.

Giovanni Bellini, The Agony in the Garden, about 1465, The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London

The Agony in the Garden portrays Christ kneeling on the Mount of Olives in prayer, with his disciples Peter, James and St. John sleeping near to him.

The picture is closely related to the similar work by Bellini's brother-in-law, Andrea Mantegna, also in the National Gallery. It is likely that both derived from a drawing by Bellini's father, Jacopo[1]. In Bellini's version, the treatment of dawn light has a more important role in donating the scene a quasi-unearthly atmosphere.

This painting is closely related to 'The Agony in the Garden' (probably slightly earlier in date), by Bellini's brother-in-law Andrea Mantegna which is also in the Collection ). The two pictures both probably derive from a drawing by Giovanni's father, Jacopo Bellini. In Giovanni Bellini's version, the treatment of the dawn light is particularly noteworthy.

[1] The Agony in the Garden refers to the events in the life of Jesus between the Last Supper and Jesus' arrest. Jesus' struggle (Greek agonia) praying and discussing with God, before accepting his sacrifice, before his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane also denotes a state of mind - agony.
According to all four Gospels, immediately after the Last Supper, Jesus took a walk to pray (John 18:1). Matthew and Mark identify this place of prayer as Gethsemane. Jesus was accompanied by St. Peter, St. John and St. James the Greater, whom he asked to stay awake and pray. He moved "a stone's throw away" from them, where he felt overwhelming sadness and anguish, and said "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it." Then, a little while later, He said, "If this cup cannot pass by, but I must drink it, your will be done!" (Matthew 26:42). He said this prayer three times, checking on the three apostles, between each prayer and finding them asleep. He comments: "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak". An angel came from heaven to strengthen him. During his agony, as he prayed "his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground".(Luke 22:43).
In Bellini's Agony in the Garden, Jesus kneels in prayer as Peter, James, and John sleep nearby.
[2] Giovanni Bellini (active about 1459, died 1516) was one of the most influential Venetian artists. He lived and worked in Venice all his life his career spanned 65 years. He is celebrated for his pioneering portrayal of natural light, seen in such works as 'The Agony in the Garden', for his tender and graceful pictures of the Virgin and for his altarpieces. Dürer, in Venice in about 1506, wrote that Giovanni 'is very old and yet he is the best painter of all'.
Giovanni Bellini was born into the leading dynasty of Venetian painters. He seems to have been the younger brother of Gentile Bellini. His development was first shaped by his father, Jacopo. His brother-in-law Andrea Mantegna also influenced early works, such as 'The Blood of the Redeemer' and 'The Agony in the Garden'. The visit of Antonello da Messina to Venice in 1475-6 may also have influenced him.

Giorgio Vasari | Lives of the Most Eminent Painters Sculptors and Architects

Giorgio Vasari | Lives of the Most Eminent Painters Sculptors and Architects | Andrea Mantegna

Mantegna exhibition at Musée du Louvre, Hall Napoléon | From September 26, 2008 to January 5, 2009 | www.mini-site.louvre.fr/mantegna
The French collections, starting with that of the Louvre, house a noteworthy ensemble of Mantegna's works which were completed by some exceptional loans, from all over the world.

This page uses material from the Wikipedia articles Andrea Mantegna and Cappella Ovetari, published under the GNU Free Documentation License.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Andrea Mantegna.

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Agony in the Garden Use of Technique

Bellini most likely painted this piece while under the influence of Mantegna, whose painting by the same name and nearly identical composition hangs on the wall next to Bellini's at London's National Gallery. Mantegna had been trained in the Paduan tradition of painting, with an emphasis on the structural strength of figures and dramatic foreshortening and perspective techniques.

Mantegna and his techniques were a strong influence on Bellini's early career, and this is evident most notably through the severely foreshortened figure of the disciple John (closest to Jesus), and reliance on drawn contour lines.

Later in his career, Bellini forwent the use of strong contour lines and adapted his paintings more to his own inclination to create softer, airier figures.

Bellini painted Agony in the Garden using the tempera paint method, which is comprised of pigment and a binding agent, such as egg. Tempera paints dried extremely quickly, making blending colors extremely difficult, but Bellini's desire to portray life-like and emotive figures clearly overcame this handicap and he was able to produce a work such as Agony in the Garden.

The Last Supper and the Agony in the Garden

Label Text: In the Italian medieval and Renaissance periods episodes of sacred history and dogma were often depicted in fresco on expanses of wall, instead of on windows of stained glass, the preferred medium for large works of art in northern Europe. Fresco was carried out by applying a thin coat of wet plaster to a section of the wall and executing the design progressively on each newly surfaced area. Rich earth tones of color penetrated the surface of the wet plaster and bonded with the wall.

In this fresco from the Church of Santa Monica inter Angelos near Spoleto, two different episodes of Christ's life, The Last Supper and The Agony in the Garden, are combined within a single frame, a juxtaposition typical of medieval concepts of narrative. These subjects were popular choices for the walls of monastic refectories (dining halls) as well as churches. Also typical of its time is the spatial rendering, which seems inconsistent and awkward to the modern viewer: the tabletop is seen at an angle, but the dishes are depicted in profile view. The apostles surrounding Christ, who sits at the apex of their triangular configuration, are gathered improbably on one side of the table. The decorative folds of the tablecloth, the jeweled halos, and even the linear highlights of the garments emphasize decorative patterning of the surface rather than the illusionistic space and three-dimensional form that were to become artistic features of the centuries following.

Around the San Zeno triptych in Verona

From 1456 to 1459, Mantegna devoted himself to the monumental altarpiece commissioned by Gregorio Correr, abbot of the Benedictine monastery of San Zeno in Verona. The main panels are still in place on the high altar of the church, while the predella elements are divided between Tours and Paris. To place his personages in an all'antica vestibule running along the whole width of the main register, Mantegna took as his model Donatello's bronze altar in the Basilica of Sant'Antonio in Padua. He pushes illusionism to such an extent that he makes the natural light of the edifice, falling from a window to the right, correspond to that of the painting's fictive space, and juxtaposes the columns of the carved frame with the pilasters of the painted loggia.

The three predella panels show his fascination for the art of Flemish masters, examples of which he could have seen in Venetia: as in the Adoration of the Shepherds he multiplies realistic notations. The deep sense of nature transpiring here, the gentleness of some personages owe much to Giovanni Bellini, to whom Mantegna is still very close. But after this moment of intense poetry, he returns to a more austere and cerebral style, adopted a few years earlier in the Agony in the Garden in London.

Agony in the Garden Story and Theme

Paintings of Biblical events were commonplace in Italy in the centuries prior to Bellini's birth and their popularity continued into the dawning of the Italian Renaissance - so much so that Bellini was commissioned to paint scenes in dozens of churches throughout Venice.

Based on the Byzantine tradition of painting icons, religious paintings were meant to depict stories taken from the Bible so that the majority of churchgoers, who were illiterate, could see rather than read of the events.

Garden of Solace:
According to the four Gospels, Jesus walked out to the garden, located at the foot of the famed Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, to pray immediately after they celebrated Passover at what is now called The Last Supper. He asked three of his disciples - Peter, James, and John - to accompany him and pray with him at this place they often visited.

Jesus moved a short distance away from his disciples and asked them to pray with him throughout the night. Twice, however, the disciples fell asleep and Jesus woke them up, asking them to pray for the strength to resist temptation.

During his own prayers, Jesus is said to have been in a state of extreme anguish, such that "his sweat was as if it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. " (Luke 22: 43-44). He asked God multiple times to "let this cup pass by me," referencing his impending betrayal and death. Each time he prays this, however, he says to God "but let it be as You, not I would have it," indicating his willingness to work for God's ultimate plan (Matthew 26: 42). He reveals to God during his prayers that "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak," (Luke 22: 43).

In return, God is said to have sent an angel to comfort and strengthen Jesus. This angel is visible in the top right quadrant of Bellini's painting and is holding a cup to symbolize the looming sacrifice and that this cup will not pass by Jesus as he wishes it to.

The Betrayal:
It is believed that after spending hours in prayer, Judas, one of Jesus' twelve disciples, arrived with Roman soldiers and Jewish religious leaders to arrest Jesus. According to Christian tradition, Judas had left the Passover meal they were enjoying in order to fetch Jesus' enemies. In Bellini's Agony in the Garden Judas can be seen in the background approaching with the cohort of people poised to arrest Jesus.

The reasons behind Jesus' arrest were politically motivated. Jewish religious leaders, called Pharisees, were concerned by Jesus' popularity with the people and they feared that their own teachings and laws would come to be abandoned. The conservative Pharisees also feared that Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem would prompt another uprising against Rome in favor of an independent Jewish state.

During this time, Rome occupied the area but allowed for local customs and laws to remain intact. There was a very unstable power balance. The Pharisees believed that with just another uprising, Rome would lose its patience with them and move to a complete take-over, thereby depriving the Pharisees of their own political and religious power.

On a more personal level, the Pharisees had been embarrassed by Jesus during a few public debates, when, it is said, that he revealed the Pharisees' occasional religious ineptitude and exposed them as sinners, no better than anybody else.

For these reasons, the Pharisees hired Judas to lead them and some Roman soldiers to Jesus' whereabouts, so that he could be arrested and tried for blasphemy and sedition in the Roman courts.

In order to ensure that all aspects of the story were covered in his painting, Bellini included the approaching mob to remind those viewing the painting that the events don't end in the Garden of Gethsemane.

After Jesus' arrest at dawn, tradition dictates that he was immediately taken to the Roman Prefect, Pontius Pilate who questioned him about his life and actions. Many scholars believe that Pilate was not convinced of Jesus' guilt and was reluctant to execute him and offered a crowed of gathered people the choice between Jesus of Nazareth and an insurrectionist named Jesus bar-Abbas (Barabbas). When the people chose to release Barabbas (no doubt after some encouragement from the Pharisees), Pilate authorized Jesus' crucifixion.

In Bellini's Agony in the Garden this deep sadness is literally lightened by the presence of the hopeful light of dawn, which harkens to Jesus' foretold resurrection from death.

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Ad Imaginem Dei

The three Synoptic Gospels give us a fairly consistent picture of the last hours of freedom in the life of Jesus: following the Last Supper he went out, accompanied by his disciples, to the Mount of Olives, to a place known as Gethsemane. There he left his disciples (according to Matthew and Mark he took with him Peter, and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John) and went off by himself to pray. Once by himself he enters into agonized prayer, asking His Father to spare him the terrible cup of suffering He is about to begin to endure. Only in the account by Luke do we hear of the appearance of an angel to comfort Him, but in every account His prayer ends with the acceptance of the ordeal if that is His Father’s will. In all three accounts the disciples fail in their watch. They are found sleeping, the first of many disappointments and betrayals. Immediately after this incident, He will be taken prisoner, tortured and condemned to death.

In art the scene, which is called The Agony in the Garden or
Christ on the Mount of Olives or Gethsemane, has undergone some development over time.

The early images were careful to follow the Gospel narratives, usually including at least the three sleeping disciples. No angel makes an appearance, although the Hand of God or even a half-length image of the Father sometimes does. The chalice, which is a metaphor for the sufferings to come, may or may not be depicted.

Jesus and the Disciples in the Garden
From the Golden Munich Psalter
English (Oxford), c. 1200-1225
Munich, Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek
MS Clm 835, fol. 25r

Agony in the Garden
From a Psalter
German (Bavaria), c. 1236
Munich, Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek
MS Clm 11308, fol. 8v

Agony in the Garden
From Livre d'Images de Madame Marie
Belgian (Hainaut), 1285-1290
Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale de France
Latin 16251, fol. 32v

The Limbourg Brothers (Herman, Paul and Jean), The Agony in the Garden
From the Belles Heures of Jean de Berry
French (Paris), c. 1405-1408 or 1409
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters Collection
Accession Number: 54.1.1a, b

Fra Angelico and Workshop, Agony in the Garden with Mary and Martha
Italian, c. 1437-1446
Florence, Convento di San Marco

Andrea Mantegna, Agony in the Garden
Italian, ca. 1450
London, National Gallery

Giovanni Bellini, Agony in the Garden
Italian, 1465
London, National Gallery

Rueland Frueauf the Elder, Agony in the Garden
Austrian, c. 1490-1491
Vienna, Belvedere Museum

Sandro Botticelli, Agony in the Garden
Italian, c.1500
Granada, Museo de la Capilla Real

Vittore Carpaccio. Agony in the Garden
Italian, 1502
Venice, Scuola d San Giorgio degli Schiavoni

Jan Gossaert, Agony in the Garden
Flemish, ca. 1510
Berlin, Gemäldegalerie der Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Agony in the Garden
From Hours of Notre Dame
French, 1524
Washington, Library of Congress
MS Rosenwald ms. No. 10, fol. 17

By 1600 the comforting angel, mentioned only in Luke’s account and not always included by artists, became a major figure in the composition as the disciples became more and more relegated to the background. However, the disciples and, occasionally, the advancing arrest party were still represented.

Paolo Veronese, Agony in the Garden
Italian, 1583-1584
Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera

Jacopo Ligozzi, Agony in the Garden
Italian, c.1587
Private Collection

Philippe de Champaigne, Agony in the Garden
French, 1646-1650
Rennes, Mus é e des Beaux-Arts

Giacinto Brandi, Agony in the Garden
Italian, 1650
Vatican City, Pinacoteca Vaticana

Adriaen van de Velde, Agony in the Garden
Dutch, 1665
Private Collection
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Agony in the Garden
Italian, 1745-1760
Hamburg, Kunsthalle

By the late 18th century the disciples had ceased to be depicted at all and the composition now focused solely on the two figures, Jesus (often totally overcome) and the angel.

Sebastiano Conca, Agony in the Garden
Italian, 1746
Vatican City, Pinacoteca Vaticana

Anton Raphael Mengs, Agony in the Garden
German, 1770s
Madrid, Palacio Real

Carl Heinrich Bloch, Agony in the Garden
Danish, 1865-1869
Copenhagen, Frederiksborg Palace

Perhaps in reaction to the extreme emotions of the later Agony images, by the dawn of the 20th century, the scene had altered. The emotions and the angel had been suppressed. Today, the most commonly reproduced image of the Agony in the Garden, derived from an 1890 painting by Heinrich Ferdinand Hoffmann, is that of a solitary Jesus who is serious, but tranquil, attended by neither angel nor disciple and without chalice or cross.

Watch the video: gethsemane jesus praying (May 2022).