To leaders, pain and agony are unavoidable, as they need to take responsibility for their decisions and choices. Jesus was the leader who led the Messiah movement of the Jewish people, but suffered from the most severe suppression under Roman rule. After the Last Supper, Jesus went to Gethsemane and prayed his last prayer. This Biblical moment was a popular theme in Christian art, also depicted by revolutionary painter Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516).
In the painting, Jesus is praying earnestly on a bare hill. He is saddened about the agony and death on the cross, while Judas is shown on the other side of the river leading Roman soldiers to capture Jesus. His disciples, who had been looking out for him, have fallen asleep. His teacher told them to stay awake while praying, but they had been defeated by physical tiredness. One is fully asleep on the floor and two others are drifting off as they remain seated. Only a few hours earlier they had pledged oath to remain faithful. Only the angel on the clouds is of console to Jesus.
Bellini was an innovative pioneer in terms of technique and theme expressions. Instead of the traditional tempera method that uses eggs as menstruum, he experimented with oil paint, giving his paintings a pastoral and lyrical feeling. His use of colors was divergent and attractive. The peach-colored early morning sky, against the pink tunic worn by Jesus and his two disciples, creates a mythical and harmonious look. The painter studied the changes of the sky light throughout his life and created his own unique style. This painting is known as the first Italian painting to depict early morning skies. The nectarous pink color that he used became the name for the peach sparkling wine Bellini.
Though son of God, the life of Jesus was far from a pink life. The painter depicts him in his human form and ways, agonizing over the betrayal of his disciples and nearing death. It makes one wonder- what did Jesus find more excruciating- the death of the cross or the betrayal of his disciples.