Christ was brought before the High Priest by Roman soldiers. He was questioned about his teachings and false testimony was called against him. New Testament (all gospels, e.g. Matthew 26: 57-66).

This is one of the most famous paintings made by Honthorst in Rome, and shows the powerful influence of Caravaggio. The scene is focused on the burning candle in the centre of the composition, and beside it the arm and raised finger of the High Priest. Under Jewish law his claim to be the Messiah was punishable by death, and the book on the table in front of the High Priest contains the proscriptions of the Mosaic Law. The painting is concentrated in theme, lacking the anecdotal character that affected the work of the majority of Caravaggio's followers. In this respect, it approaches the directness of Caravaggio's own later work, such as 'Salome receives the Head of Saint John', also in the National Gallery's Collection.

According to van Honthorst's biographer, Joachim von Sandrart, the patron was the Marchese Vincenzo Giustiniani, in whose palace the artist stayed during his years in Rome. Honthorst, a native of the Dutch town of Utrecht, may have moved to Rome perhaps as early as 1610 and returned in about 1620.


  • Title: Christ before the High Priest
  • Creator: Gerrit van Honthorst
  • Date Created: about 1617
  • Physical Dimensions: 272 x 183 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • School: Dutch
  • More Info: Explore the National Gallery’s paintings online
  • Inventory number: NG3679
  • Artist Dates: 1592 - 1659
  • Artist Biography: Honthorst became one of the main Dutch followers of Caravaggio, whose style he popularised in Holland on his return from a stay in Rome, 1610-20. With paintings such as 'Christ before the High Priest' he became one of the few Dutch painters to achieve international fame. Honthorst was born in Utrecht, probably the son of Herman Gerritsz. van Honthorst, a painter of tapestry cartoons. He trained with Bloemaert, the leading local painter, before travelling to Rome. After his return to Utrecht in 1620, he turned from mainly religious to Arcadian and domestic subjects and portraits. He popularised candle-light scenes. In 1628 he was working in London for King Charles I. He returned in December 1628 and lived in The Hague, where he was in the service of Prince Frederick Henry of Orange (who died 1647). He was involved in the decoration of the Prince's new palaces and was his favoured portrait painter. In 1635 Honthorst sent to Denmark the first of a long series of classical and historical pictures commissioned by King Christian IV. In 1652 he returned to Utrecht, where he died.
  • Acquisition Credit: Bought, 1922

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