Christ Before the High Priest by Gerrit von Honthorst

Christ Before the High Priest by Gerrit von Honthorst
Christ Before the High Priest by Gerrit von Honthorst

Gerrit von Honthorst (1592 – 1656) began as a religious painter in Utrecht, in the Netherlands. But as was customary at the time, he decided to travel toItaly, to see with his own eyes the work of the great masters and also classical art. And once in Italian lands, his art fascinated the highest representatives of the Church and also a large part of the aristocracy.


Christ before the high priest of Honthorst

He achieved enormous prestige and stayed in princely residences. For example, this 1617 painting was painted for the MarquisVincenzo Giustinaiani, in whose palace he was residing

In Italy, his ability to paint scenes like this earned him the nickname “Gerardo of the nights”. And his fame crossed borders, so much so that he worked for the Orange dynasty in the Netherlandsa, as well as for King Charles I of England,Christian IV of Denmark or was painting teacher to the exiled Queen of Bohemia, Elisabeth Stuart.

For all of them he painted paintings with mythological themes, allegories and portraits. But without a doubt, his ability to evoke religious environments from the lighting of candles was his speci alty, as we see in this painting that presents us with a passage from the Gospel of Saint Matthew. According to the New Testament account, afterAfter Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Olives, they took him to appear before the high priest Caiaphas, who was to question and judge him.

A trial in which two false witnesses testified, which we see here in the semi-dark part of the canvas, behind the judge who appears sitting and asking questions. Although Jesus remained silent and did not respond to those questions or to the false testimonies.

That's the story, but the magic of the painting is its lighting. A painting in which the figures reach a size close to life and where everything makes sense by the light emitted by the candle located in the center of the canvas. Its radiance bathes the entire room and all the characters in light. It gives everything a reddish tone and illuminates everything, although we can see how its strength weakens with distance.

That light gives incredible relief to the two main figures, emphasizing their gestures and expressions. At the same time, it leads our gaze to the rope that binds Christ or the books of the Law on the table.

In short, this is a work of outstanding light effectism.

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