Agony in the Garden

WAG 1015


Christ is shown praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, just before his arrest. He prays to be spared the suffering that awaits him. Three disciples, too tired to pray with him, are sleeping nearby. The figures are copied directly from a print by the important engraver, Martin Schongauer. On the horizon, the cave at the foot of the bizarre rocks probably represents Christ’s tomb at Golgotha. The landscape is similar to those painted in the Antwerp workshops of Joachim Patinir (about 1480-1524) and his nephew Herri Met de Bles (about 1510-1550). They both used prints by Schongauer for their figures. William Roscoe owned twelve prints by Schongauer. One of them was of this subject, which may have encouraged Roscoe to buy the painting. The painting may be linked to the artist Patinir. He was among the first to specialise in painting landscapes. They were popular with collectors across Europe in his own lifetime. The strange rocks are similar to those found along the river Meuse, near where Patinir was born. Other Flemish artists whose names have been linked to this painting include Adrien Ysenbrandt (about 1500-1551) and Jan Matsys (1509-1575), who like Patinir worked in Antwerp, Belgium. This is one of the artworks presented by the Liverpool Royal Institution. Liverpool’s economic development grew directly from Britain’s involvement with transatlantic slavery: the kidnapping, enslavement and forced migration of people from West Africa to the Americas and many to the Caribbean. Many members of the Royal Institution made their fortunes directly through the trade or indirectly through the wider economy. This wealth was largely how they were able to bring rare art and treasures, such as this, to the city.