Agony in the Garden
(Ludovico Carracci)


This Agony in the Garden is a fine example of Ludovico Carracci’s painting on copper. On the evidence of style, it can be dated soon after 1600 when Ludovico’s work often combines a suavity in handling with an increasing degree of pictorial abstraction. Indeed, in this unusual interpretation of Christ’s Agony, Ludovico was less concerned with narrating the scene than with exposing its meaning. The heavens gape boldly open, all but obliterating the view of Gethsemane and the sleeping Apostles. Christ and the angel are rendered large and brought close to the foreground. This arrangement allows Ludovico to characterise Christ’s inner experience: the emphasis here is not on prayer but on submission as Jesus sinks, exhausted, against the gentle support of the angel.

The exhibited picture takes its place in a remarkable sequence of pictures of the Agony in the Garden by Ludovico. He must have been particularly interested in the subject, for, not only did Ludovico paint it in numerous versions, but, judging by the four extant examples he developed a wholly new interpretation for each picture. While the early history of this small copper is obscure, it may be possible to connect it to one of the several paintings of the Agony in the Garden mentioned in Italian inventories; the Mitelli and Aldobrandi families in Bologna owned paintings of this subject by Ludovico, as did the Marchese Pucci in Florence, and the Giustiniani and Carlo Maratta in Rome. Only the last two of these pictures can be identified with works known today; Maratta’s canvas is in the Prado, and the small copper noted in the 1638 Giustiniani inventory was, until recently, in the Pediconi collection in Rome. (The provenance of Ludovico’s best known Agony in the Garden – the canvas in the Mahon collection – can be traced no further than the mid-nineteenth century.) It may be of significance that the present picture was copied, probably by an artist working in or near Bologna around 1700 (the copy was sold at Christie’s, South Kensington, 20th July 1983 and was subsequently on the Roman art market). The existence of this copy suggests that a link with the Bolognese collection of the Mitelli and Aldobrandi might usefully be sought.

40 x 30 cm.
Oil on canvas

Christie’s Anonymous Sale, 1763.
Richard Payne Knight, thence by descent to Dennis Lennox, Downton Castle, Hereford.
Christie’s, May 4th, 1979, lot 89.


G. Andrisiani, Il Seicento Napoletano, Gaeta, 1986, p. 56.

Where is It?
private collection
Historical Period
Baroque - 1600-1720
Religious: New Testament
Italian - Bolognese
Price band
Sold or not available