But This is Your Hour—When Darkness Reigns

“The Arrest in the Garden” from The Passion Altarpiece by Hans Holbein the younger

I had never really studied Hans Holbein the Younger’s artwork, other than the pieces he made when in the court of the Tudors, brought over by Henry VIII. I never knew that he made religious artwork, let alone being influenced by Albrecht Dürer (an artist I like and have reviewed in the past) and Matthias Grünewald (another artist I like and am reviewing tomorrow).

But as I was searching for am image to use to show the arrest of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemene, I found this one and  discovered Holbein’s Passion Altarpiece. 

When creating this piece, Holbein was influenced greatly by the Italian masters, such as Raphael and da Vinci, along with his father, Hans Holbein the Elder.

While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.” Luke 22:47-53

So we see that Holbein carefully studied the text to present the image of Christ. Like Giotto, and Caravaggio who would come later, Holbein creates a small window onto the world of Christ and scene of the arrest.

We see that there is  great perspective in this, with all the figures in the scene overlapping in confusion and the attack as they surround Jesus and Judas.

The dark tones and chiaroscuro create dramatic flair and a supreme intensity, the flames of the mob and the central figures being highlighted and immediately capturing your eye.

There are two things that really struck me in this image. First, if you look at Jesus as Judas is giving him the kiss to signify his betrayal, a soldier has grasped him. This is one of the few that actually show an arrest in progress, instead of just confusion.

Also if you look at Peter, this is one the fiercest paintings of him. In this image he is not only cutting off a soldier’s ear, but he has knocked said soldier to the ground, slicing off his ear, and continues to pin him down threatening to do more if waved ahead by Christ. I think this perfectly captures Peter as a man of emotion and one who was always quick acting and intense in everything he does.

A powerful and intense painting.

For more on the arrest of Christ, go to The Arrest

For more images of Jesus, go to But That the Scripture May Be Fulfilled

In other news, this marks my 900th post!

It only took us six months to get here, that’s one less than last time.

For the 800th post, go to Every Three Thousand Years, the Stars Align. Unleashing an Army of Monsters: TMNT (2007)

For the 700th post, go to Fan-do or Fan-don’t. There is No Fan-try

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The Arrest

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So the next artwork we are going to look at is The Betrayal of Jesus by Albrecht Dürer, a woodcut.

Now Dürer was a painter from Germany, his work becoming a part of the German Renaissance. He also did a series of woodcuts, a media made popular after the Gutenberg Press was invented as it was easy and cheap to make.

This woodcut was a part of a series Dürer did, called the Little Passion. This was before he became a part of Martin Luther’s protestant movement; and changed to doing Reformation art.

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So as we look upon Dürer’s work we see a lot of similarities to the Giotto and Duccio pieces I have reviewed in the past. We are given a window onto a world, with the background being about Christs’s arrest and the foreground on Peter’s attack.

But there are a few differences. If you look at the action in the background you see how intense the capture of Christ was. We have men with ropes, spears, and axes; reaching to pull Judas out of the way and capture Jesus. If you look clodsely at the interaction between Jesus, Judas, and the guard; you’ll notice that Caravaggio copied it for his own work almost 100 years later.

We also see a very intense scene with Peter. While most art depicts him cutting the ear off of a guard trying to attack Jesus, this one is more extreme. Not only is Peter about to slice of the man’s appendage, but he has knocked him to the ground, tossed the lantern in his face, and has completely overpowered him.

If you look at Jesus’ face, we can also see that his expression is not one of anger or sadness, but acceptance. He knows what is in store for him, willingly going ahead with the plan.

I choose this painting for the intensity along with the way it brings the text to life. I think this is a powerful woodcut, especially in its depiction of Peter.

“Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him.”–Mark 14:43-46

“Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear…Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”– John 18: 10-11

“And he [Jesus] touched the man’s ear and healed him.” Luke 22: 51

“Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?’ In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.”–Matthew 26: 52-56

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For more paintings on the arrest of Christ, go to The Taking of Christ

For more paintings of Christ, go to What If God Was One of Us?