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Judas’ imminent betrayal, hinted at in the two preceding panels, the Last Supper and Christ in the Garden, now becomes the crucial element of the representation of the central theme. Wrapped in his customary yellow cloak and holding the purse of coins, the symbols of his betrayal, Judas puts his arm around Jesus Christ and kisses him on the face. The group of armed soldiers are arranged around the two main figures. With his right hand, Christ is holding the bloody ear of Malchus, who is depicted as kneeling on the ground, in the foreground, while Simon Peter is still holding the sword with which he cut off the ear.
Located in the upper rows of the altarpiece, this panel, together with the Last Supper and Pentecost, clearly denotes some technical deficiencies in its representation of human figures. There are evident mistakes in the expressive figure of Malchus, prostrate on the ground in the foreground, or Simon Peter, whose head is disjointed in relation to the rest of his body. Contrasting with these evident formal archaisms is the refined technique displayed in the transcription of weapons and garments, as well as the use of some strategies to highlight certain details: Christ’s arm with Malchus’ bloody ear is outlined by Judas’ yellow cloak.
A volume surmounted by some fragile bushes, and a fragment of landscape turning blue in the distance, do not hide the simplicity of this composition, which is undoubtedly based on the engraving with the same theme made by Martin Schongauer or one of his followers.

Details

  • Title: Christ’s Arrest
  • Creator: Vasco Fernandes, Francisco Henriques
  • Date Created: 1501-1505
  • Physical Location: Grâo Vasco Nacional Museum, Viseu, Portugal
  • Location Created: Panel of the former altarpiece of the chancel of Viseu Cathedral
  • Physical Dimensions: 132 cm x 80 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on oak wood

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