Giovanni Francesco Barbieri known as Il Guercino
(Cento 1591 – Bologna 1666)

The Prayer in the Garden

Oil on canvas, 85 x 67.5 cm (33.5 x 26.5 inches)


«Stay here and keep vigil with me» was his prayer to Peter and to Zebedee’s two sons: «Keep vigil and pray so that you will not give in to temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak», Christ warned. But, won over by sleep, they curled up on the ground next to each other. We can already see the «large crowd carrying swords and clubs» which, illuminated by some lanterns and led by Judas, is hurrying to capture him. Time is pressing, the end of earthly life is in sight and his spirit is filled with sadness and angst, as Matthew reveals (26: 36-56). It is not easy to resign oneself to destiny, particularly when one has to face it alone for «all the disciples left him and ran away». The years are those of the gloomy, Stygian shades of the young artist from Cento, around the middle of the second half of the seventeenth century, when he had his whole life ahead of him.