Revelations: Agony in the Garden

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Revelations
Curated by Arsam Yazdani

El Greco, The Agony in the Garden, 1597

With intensely contrasting colors, El Greco creates forced perspective and a strong focus upon Jesus' conversation with God. In the Bible, he is described as discovering the true meaning of agony, pleading with God and saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it." 

Overwhelmed with sadness and pain, Jesus sheds his tears which, in the Gospels, are said to fall as drops of his blood onto ground beneath him. The three apostles are seen sleeping in the cave, oblivious to his agony. El Greco frees the scene from structure and forms a fluid background instead of showing division, all the shapes further accentuating Jesus in dead center. It's incredible how he puts in every important part of the scene but manipulates their shapes so that Jesus is the sole focal point, the colors around him showing his inner turmoil and fear. The harsh diagonal colors and light contrast the curves of the figures and the rocks. The bleak background and lack of folliage really place Jesus in total environment of sorrow and anguish. All others in the piece are sickly in appearance, throwing the viewer in as an onlooker of Jesus' private battle. 

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