(b. 1541, Candia, d. 1614, Toledo)

The Agony in the Garden

c. 1608
Oil on canvas, 170 x 112,5 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

There are many versions of The Agony in the Garden painted by El Greco and his workshop, it was one of his most successful inventions. He painted the subject both as a horizontal and as a vertical composition. The version in the Budapest museum is a good example of the vertical type. There are other vertical versions in Andújar, in Cuenca and in Buenos Aires. The intervention of El Greco's workshop can be assumed in all these paintings.

In his religious compositions and portraits El Greco frequently repeated themes from his major works, with slight alterations, to meet different commissions. He broke away from the Renaissance tradition and ceased to depict reality and nature. In order to convey mystic emotions and to imbue his work with passion he distorted and elongated the forms and used stridently blazing colours to express the transcendental. The Agony in the Garden is such mystic interpretation representative of El Greco's late years and mature style.

The painting depicts the last night of Christ on the Mount of Olives. In the foreground the tired pupils are sleeping, their unnaturally rigid robes refer to the wax models which the aged master used. Above them Christ is kneeling while an angel appears. The scene is a grassy clearing which looks like to be a lighted stage. In the background the soldiers are gathering.