The Agony in the Garden, c. 1725
Conté crayon on paper
24.3 x 17.6 cm Image: 20.7 x 16 cm
Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Acquired with funds from The Winnipeg Foundation
As one of the leaders of the Neapolitan School in the early eighteenth century, Francesco Solimena was a highly influential painter whose work reflected both the exuberant Baroque style of his predecessor Luca Giordano, and the classical tendencies of the Roman artist Pietro de Cortona. Through the patronage of Charles III (1716–1788), the Bourbon ruler of Naples and later King of Spain, Solimena received many important commissions, including royal portraits. This preparatory sketch in Conté crayon shows the scene of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane before his Crucifixion. Through a series of vigorous lines and shading, Solimena attempts to convey the agonizing spiritual turmoil of Christ as he struggles to reconcile the conflict between the human side of his nature—fearful of his imminent suffering—and his divine nature, represented by the angel sent to strengthen him. Here Christ is presented with the sacrificial Eucharist cup and the burden of the cross borne upon the angel’s shoulder.