Masterpiece 10: Caravaggio Masterpiece 10 - The Taking of Christ, 1602
Photo © National Gallery of Ireland

Caravaggio (Caravaggio 1571-1610 Porto Ercole)
The Taking of Christ, 1602
Oil on canvas
133.5 x 169.5cm
On indefinite loan from the Jesuit Community of Leeson Street, Dublin, who acknowledge the generosity of the late Dr Marie Lea-Wilson, 1992
National Gallery of Ireland
The Artist

Caravaggio's life was, in the words of his biographer Andrew Graham-Dixon, "like his art, a series of lightning flashes in the darkest of nights". Born in 1571 outside Milan, Caravaggio came of age in an era of devastating plague and religious fervour born out of the Counter-Reformation.

Caravaggio's life was as sensational as his radical approach to depicting religious scenes with naturalism and sharply contrasting light, and his works were frequently described as 'indecorum'. This led to a number of works in Roman churches being initially turned down. His turbulent private life, passionately lived equally in glorious palaces and seedy backstreets, made him famous. In 1606, he killed a man, leading to years fleeing authorities and finally exile and an unfortunate and untimely death from fever.

The Painting

This is a picture taken by the Irish public to its heart, with record numbers attending its inaugural unveiling. It is still a must-see for new visitors and a work to be studied repeatedly in order to appreciate it fully. Here, in the Judas kiss of betrayal, Caravaggio brings emotion, drama and beauty to a key part of the Passion story. As well as being a magnificent painting, it has a fascinating history as a rediscovered masterpiece.

The artist's distinctive appreciation of darkness and shadows remains his hallmark while the immediacy of his figures - modelled by everyday working people - convey an earthy realism that was revolutionary at the time of its making.

His remarkable body of work had a huge influence on the painters who followed him and he remains an influential figure today, even among contemporary film-makers such Martin Scorsese, Derek Jarman, Ridley Scott and Mel Gibson.


Foreword by Mike Murphy Foreword by Mike Murphy

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