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How tenebrism contributes to the drama of the event


Which figure is central to the composition?


The figures are shown in half-length, like a film still. The soldiers are in contemporary costume. Judas’s action has the effect of pushing Christ sideways. The dark red cloth behind forms a frame like an arc behind them. The juxtaposition (putting together) of both heads is the focal point of the composition. The contrast could not be starker. Judas, driven by greed, leans forward to kiss his master. The loving greeting instantly changes to an aggressive act. Jesus remains calm. His hands, clasped in faith, are a prominent feature at the bottom of the picture. His distress is seen only in his furrowed brow and downturned eyes.


Caravaggio’s use of extreme chiaroscuro creates intensity and vibrancy. The darkness is contrasted by the intensity of the colours, particularly the deep red and shiny blue-grey metal, which adds to the richness of the visual impact. Behind the group in the top right, a man in a red cloak carries a lantern. He is thought to have the features of Caravaggio, but the lantern has no role because the light source is high on the left, beyond the view of the spectator.


How does the artist convey the moment of chaos and commotion?


What is the painting about?


Judas stretches out to grab Jesus’ sleeve. The cold, shining metal armour of the soldier’s hand further highlights Christ’s vulnerability. These lines indicate that the crowd is rushing in to capture him. The enormous punching force of the composition is pushing towards the left. Jesus alone, in passive resistance, faces the other way.


Juxtapose: Place close together for a contrasting effect.


The painting depicts the chaotic moment of treachery in the Garden of Gethsemane after Judas has identified his master by kissing him. The soldiers push forward to arrest Jesus, who accepts his fate with humility.


Fig. 9 The Taking of Christ, 1602, by Caravaggio, oil on canvas, 133.5cm x 169.5cm, on indefinite loan to the National Gallery of Ireland from the Jesuit Community, Leeson St, Dublin, who acknowledge the kind generosity of the late Dr Marie Lea-Wilson, 1992


Johannes Vermeer


Johannes Vermeer was one of the foremost painters of the time. His genre paintings stand out for their simplicity and style. He worked slowly and meticulously and produced only a small number of works in his lifetime.


Genre: Painting style that depicts scenes from ordinary life, typically domestic situations, associated particularly with 17th-century Dutch and Flemish artists.


xiv APPRECIATING ART


His compositions often include objects or still life that hint at the prosperity and status of the people. His paintings have a distinctive style and are characterised by soft textures.


Evaluate the work Look at A Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid (Fig. 10).


* How big is the painting? * What medium has been used? * Is the surface smooth or textured?

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