BIBLE PICTURES   © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008






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The Arrest of Christ; Fra ANGELICO; circa 1450; fresco; Museo di San Marco, Florence

Olga's Gallery - Online Art Museum


The Arrest of Christ






The arrest takes place in the garden of Gethsemane (or “olive press”, hence its names of Garden of Olives). It is night but the scene is lit by lanterns.

In the centre, two men, one of whom kisses the other; this is the kiss of Judas to Christ; a sign of recognition for the soldiers to arrest Jesus; this is what they do from behind. Jesus, recognizable with his halo, is looking at Judas.

 The kiss of Judas is the centre of the scene. Among Jews, one kisses the master’s hand but artists understand it as a kiss on the cheek or on the mouth.

Judas is smaller than Jesus; he can wear yellow clothes, the supposed colour of Jewish garments. Wearing a beard or not, he sometimes has red hair because of a bad German joke on his name Judas Iscariot, close to the German “ist gar rot” which means “very red”.

On the left, another scene: two men are fighting. One man cuts off the other’s ear with a sword. According to John (18:10), it is the Apostle Peter who cuts off the ear of Malchus, the High Priest’s servant. Very often, Jesus sticks it back or holds it in his hand while kissing Judas; which renders the movement totally unreal.


The arrest takes place at night or at daybreak near the Mount of Olives; in the distance can be seen the city of Jerusalem. The crowd is numerous with many men armed with swords and sticks. Some of them are real soldiers who can fall to the ground since John’s gospel (18:6) reads “they went backward, and fell to the ground” when Jesus made himself recognized. The dogs that can be seen are an allusion to Psalm 22:16 “For dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me”.

Except for Peter, the disciples are passive or run away; sometimes, one of them runs naked, leaving the cloth that covered him to those who want to arrest him; this is a detail mentioned by Mark who is probably this young man (14:51).





The Arrest of Christ; Fra ANGELICO; circa 1450; fresco; Museo di San Marco, Florence

Olga's Gallery - Online Art Museum


The Arrest of Christ

 The Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 26

And while he yet spoke, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that had betrayed him gave them a sign, saying : "Whomever I shall kiss, he is the one: hold him fast." And immediately he came to Jesus and said: "Hail, master !", and kissed him. And Jesus said to him: "Friend, why have you come? " Then they came and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. And, behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him : "Put up again your sword into its place: for all who take the sword shall perish by the sword." (Matthew 26:47-52)



           This is a dramatic moment when the kiss, a sign of friendship and love, is used as treachery and to give death.

Jesus is delivered as the Lamb of sacrifice and as the suffering servant announced by the Prophets (Isaiah, chapter 53).





The Arrest of Christ



The Arrest of Christ; Fra ANGELICO; circa 1450; fresco; Museo di San Marco, Florence

Olga's Gallery - Online Art Museum



Two complete scenes but one uses depth, the other keeps to the foreground; which gives different viewpoints on Judas’ kiss and the ear cut off by Peter. In Giotto, the latter attacks in a strange way, from behind, with a knife.


The Capture of Christ; Dieric BOUTS the Elder; oil on canvas; Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

Web Gallery of Art



he Kiss of Judas; GIOTTO di Bondone; 1304-06; fresco; Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy

Web Gallery of Art



The violence of the arrest is represented in close-up. The soldier separates Judas and Jesus who are strangely linked, by their hands on the left, by their gazes on the right.

Caravaggio also represents the horrified disciple, probably Mark the evangelist, who runs away.



The Taking of Christ; Michelangelo da Merisi CARAVAGGIO; circa 1598; oil on canvas; National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.

 National Gallery Washington



The Betrayal of Christ; GUERCINO; circa 1621; oil on canvas; National Gallery, London

Fitz Museum Cambridge



Judas’ kiss is often an embrace; the picture on the left emphasizes treachery since Judas embraces Jesus from behind.



The Kiss of Judas; Thomas COUTURE; oil on canvas; private collection.

Art Renewal Center



The Arrest of Christ; attributed to CIMABUE; fresco; Basilica St Francis; Assisi, Italy.

Web Gallery of Art



Peter cutting off the ear of the High Priest’s servant becomes the main scene; the kiss of Judas is relegated to the background or lost in the crowd of soldiers.


The Arrest of Christ; Albrecht ALTDORFER; 1509-16; oil on wood; Augustiner Chorherrenstift, St Florian Abbey, near Linz, Austria

Web Gallery of Art



The Capture; c. 1250; stone; cathedral of Naumburg, Germany

Web Gallery of Art






A phrase and a proverb are derived from this scene.

The kiss of Judas is that of the false friend, of the traitor par excellence.


“Who uses the sword will perish by the sword”. The proverb is completely out of context and defends non-violence. The saying is very general and does not apply to St Peter who is crucified to death.





BIBLE PICTURES   © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008