By Alte Pinakothek, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen
Alte Pinakothek, Bavarian State Painting Collections
Christ before the High Priest (about 1617) by Gerrit van HonthorstThe National Gallery, London
Here, Honthorst depicts a scene from the New Testament. After his capture, Christ was taken to the high priest and accused of blasphemy. The room in which Christ stands before the high priest is lit by a single candle, which is positioned between them on the table.
Both figures are therefore much more strongly illuminated than the other persons in the picture.
In direct proximity to the candle you can see the raised index finger of the high priest...
...and the opened book which the Mosaic laws. According to Jewish law, the claim to be the Redeemer could be punished with death.
The bright candlelight illuminates Christ more than any other figure: his light-coloured robe reflects the light.
With his head bowed...
... and his hands tied in front of his body, he listens intently to the statements of the high priest.
Given the subject matter and the large format, one might assume that Christ before the High Priest is an altarpiece. However, Honthorst actually created the painting for the private gallery of his patron Vincenzo Giustiniani, in whose palace he resided during his stay in Rome. Giustiniani was one of the wealthiest and most influential men in Rome and had an impressive art collection that comprised more than 600 paintings at the time of his death.
The contents were created in connection with the exhibition "Utrecht, Caravaggio and Europe" at the Alte Pinakothek München. Click here to discover the world of the Caravaggisti.