"Christ Before the High Priest"
After Gerard van Honthorst (Netherlands, 1590-1656)
Signed on back "by Priscilla Sibley"
Oil on canvas board
12 x 10 inches (17 x 15 in frame)
Honthorst achieved an international reputation while living in Rome, working for nobles, princes and the Church. Among his patrons were Prince Frederik Hendrik of Orange, Christian IV of Denmark, The Queen of Bohemia, Elisabeth Stuart, to name but a few. The Italians called him Gherardo delle Notti- Gerard of the Nocturnes- and this painting, made for the Marchsese Vincenzo Giustiniani in whose palace Honthorst stayed, explains why. Painted in about 1617, Honthorst uses candlelight to create a scene of dreamlike enchantment and employs it to lend dramatic tension to a biblical story (Matthew 26:57-64). After his capture on the night of Agony in the Garden, Jesus is taken for interrogation and trial before the High Priest Caiaphas, where two false witnesses, the shifty-looking fellows- speak against him. Within the vast, original composition, the visibility of the life-size figures depends entirely on that single candle flame. Its gleam unifies the whole, by giving the impression of illuminating the entire room with evenly decreasing intensity until its force is spent in the dark. It allows the two principal characters to stand out in relief more solidly and in greater detail than the others. It intensely focuses attention on their solemn and threatening poses, gestures and expressions.
The original hangs in the National Gallery, London
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