The Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430 – 1516) painted this work of Agony in the Olive Garden in approximately the year 1465. And today the painting, made on wood and with the tempera technique, is treasured by the National Gallery in London.
For many years, the landscape in painting, especially in religious painting, continues to be an environment, often unreal, that served to reinforce the message of the religious scene it served as background. That is to say, it had its importance, but it was never something of a protagonist.
Agony in Bellini's Garden
In this sense, examples abound and here we have chosen this image fromBellinifocused on the days before Jesus is crucified, when he takes refuge on the Mount of Olive trees to pray
As we know the outcome of that, especially the faithful of Christianity know that these are sad times. And in this line, the painter places everything in a space that has very little of an orchard, and rather looks like an inhospitable landscape. There is Christ praying and some of his Apostles accompany him, the vast majority in attitudes of desolation. And they know that as soon as the sun rises, the Roman soldiers will arrive to arrest Jesus.
Pictorially speaking, whenever it is a painting bythe Bellini, whether it is by Giovanni, his brother Gentile, or his father Giovanni, one must highlight thevivid colorful. Something that is actually typical of the entire pictorial school of Venice. Here that color is capable of bathing everything with the light of dawn, bringing warmth to the scene and a great brightness to the green and blue tones of the backgrounds. While in the foreground there are more arid colors, creams and earths, which serve as a background for the highlight of the clothing of the three Apostles seen in the scene.
However, the Venetian school which also owes much to Byzantine art, which is manifested here in the most stylized, especially on rocks with clear edges and very hard edges.
However, Giovanni is a man of his time, and that is much clearer than the traces of the Byzantine. To begin with, we must talk about the perspective and depth of the painting, something that is due to the great advances in this field made by many painters of the Renaissance.
The realism in some elements of the field, or the naturalness in the postures of the protagonists is also very much of the time. Something that he had surely learned after contacting Andrea Mantegna, who had made a painting of the same subject with which it is very clear that there are many similarities.