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Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755

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Possibly the Candlelight Master, French, active in Italy about 1620-40, or Trophîme Bigot, French, 1579-1650

The Arrest of Christ
Late 1620s
Oil on canvas
Gift of Julia and Richard H. Rush, Class of 1937; P.985.49


There were a number of talented followers of Caravaggio (1571-1610), one of the most influential painters of the seventeenth century, who explored naturalism and the dramatic use of chiaroscuro. Like many of those who emulated his style, the artist of this work combined a realistic portrayal of common figure types with spectacular artificial lighting. This composition concentrates our attention on the central action, limiting the number of figures to two soldiers on the left and Christ in the foreground on the right, in front of Judas. All traces of violence and confrontation are kept to a minimum. The only physical contact between the figures is the outstretched arm of the soldier grabbing the collar of Christ. The nighttime scene is illuminated entirely by the lantern, selectively revealing only those features that convey the range of the figures’ responses to the betrayal.

Following the pattern of several other early-seventeenth-century depictions of the subject, the painter has eliminated all references to the Garden Gethsemane, greatly reduced the number of soldiers who have come to arrest Christ, and ignored the severing of Malchius’s ear—all details that generally appeared in earlier representations of the scene.

The format and size of this canvas, as well as the style, number, and arrangement of half-length figures in the painting, bears a remarkable similarity to the Denial of Saint Peter of about 1630 in the collection of the Palmer Museum of Art at Pennsylvania State University. This painting has recently been attributed to Master Jacomo, also known as the Candlelight Master. Over the past several decades, the painting owned by the Hood Museum of Art has been attributed to a number of Italian, French, and Dutch followers of Caravaggio. Most recently, Axel Hémery of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Toulouse has suggested that this picture was executed sometime in the 1620s by a French artist active in Rome, possibly the Candlelight Master.

Last Updated: 1/21/10