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Christ on the Mount of Olives (Christ’s Fear of Death)

Battistello Caracciolo1615/1617

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Vienna, Austria

“And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And
being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:43–44.)
Unlike many of his Neapolitan contemporaries, Caracciolo early oriented himself on the modern lighting effects and the dose proximity of the compositions in the works of Caravaggio, becoming the latter’s most
important successor in Naples. At the same time, however, Caracciolo also
adopted the demand for the representation and severity of the contemporary
Roman art that evolved around Annibale and Lodovico Carracci.
In this characteristic early work Caracciolo complies with the demands of the
Counter-Reformation for a literal account of the biblical tale of Christ’s fear of
death while creating a carefully calculated mood for the devout beholder.
Caracciolo gives Christ the features of the Ecce Homo: his hands are folded
across his chest, and his eyelids are contorted. With a moving physical closeness the comforting figure of the angel turns towards him. The severity of the composition and the abstract effect of the body surfaces emphasise the urgency of the appeal. In the 1659 inventory of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm’s gallery, the painting was attributed to Caravaggio himself out of ignorance of the true author. It has been listed under the name of Caracciolo only since 1962. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery, Vienna 2010

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