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Christ on the Mount of Olives

Accession Number

Christ on the Mount of Olives

Dirck van Baburen

Object Creation Date
circa 1620

Medium & Support
oil on canvas

64 in x 131 ½ in x 2 ½ in (162.56 cm x 334.01 cm x 6.35 cm);64 in x 131 ½ in x 2 ½ in (162.56 cm x 334.01 cm x 6.35 cm)

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
A student of Paulus Moreelse, Baburen is one of three important Utrecht painters of this period, the others being Gerard van Honthorst and Henrick Terbrugghen. His production is small, approximately 30 canvases.
According to Leonard Slatkes, this painting is probably a replica by Baburen produced at the time he painted this composition and its pendant (the Mocking of Christ) for the Pieta Chapel of S. Pietro in Montorio, Rome. They therefore date before 1620.

Subject matter
This painting depicts a scene from the Passion of Jesus Christ, as told in the New Testament. Following the Last Supper, Jesus and three of his disciples went to the Mount of Olives so that he could pray. He asked Peter, James and John to stand guard, but they fell asleep. During his time of prayer, Jesus accepted his fate, " My Father, if this chalice may not pass away but I must drink it, thy will be done" (Matthew 26:42). Judas brought soldiers to the Mount of Olives and betrayed Jesus with a kiss.
Here, Jesus is shown kneeling with his arms outstretched toward an angel who holds a goblet. These two figures are illuminated by a bright light that provides a strong contrast with the surrounding darkness. On the left are the three disciples. John, in a brown cloak, sits asleep with his head propped on an arm. James, in a blue cloak, sits slumped over. Peter, an old man with white hair and beard, lies sleeping on the ground. The figure of Christ and the grouping of the disciples follow the curved shape of the lunette frame which was designed to fit in the architectural space of a church chapel. On the far right of the painting, in the distance, Judas leads a group of people who are walking toward Jesus.
It is thought that Dirck van Baburen created this copy of his original painting, that hangs in the San Pietro in Montorio church in Rome, as a replica to show to the Spanish king who commissioned the Pièta Chapel paintings. The chapel was decorated with scenes from the Passion of Christ during 1615-1620. There is a companion to the Baburen lunette painting titled, "Mocking of Christ," by David de Haen. Baburen's "Entombment," which hangs over the altar, is considered one of his best known works.

Physical Description
This is a large semi-circular painting (lunette) with several figures arranged to accomodate the shape of the canvas. It is night time, so the scene is enveloped in darkness. In the top center area, there is an angel, surrounded by bright light, who holds out a golden goblet toward a man kneeling before him. This man, with arms outstretched, looks up toward the goblet and the face of the angel. His face is illuminated by the light. He is wearing a bright red robe and a dark blue cloak. In the left foreground, there are three men who are sleeping. Two are sitting on the ground and the third, an elderly man with white hair, is reclining in front of them. They have dark blue and brown cloaks wrapped around them. On the lower right, shown in the far distance, is a group of people walking toward the kneeling figure. This scene is painted in dark tones of brown, green, blue and gray, except for the red robe of the kneeling man and areas on faces, arms and legs which are highlighted by a bright light.

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Jesus Christ
angels (spirits)
men (male humans)
robes (main garments)

& Author Notes

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