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The Grotto of the Agony (La Grotte de l'agonie)

James Tissot

European Art

Following the Last Supper, Jesus and the apostles retreat to Gethsemane (an olive grove) on the Mount of Olives. While his disciples rest, Christ prays alone, asking God if it is possible to let his sufferings pass him by, yet reaffirming his commitment to submit to God’s will. Luke writes that an angel comes to strengthen him, though in his anguish Jesus sweats blood, a graphic detail that, unusually, Tissot omits.

While Luke’s account says that Christ receives comfort from the angel, Tissot’s image seems to promise little solace and, indeed, is profoundly different in tone from the earlier watercolor The Angels Came and Ministered to Him. While one angel holds a chalice—the cup of Jesus’ suffering—the others proffer globes with scenes of the Passion to come, including Veronica’s veil, the Crucifixion, and the lamentation of the Virgin Mary.

After his tormented prayer to God, Jesus comes back to his apostles, only to find them asleep (note that Peter’s weapons are cast to one side). Awakening his followers, he rebukes them, urges their vigilance against temptation, and returns to his prayers.
MEDIUM Opaque watercolor over graphite on dark brown wove paper
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES 1886-1894
    DIMENSIONS Image: 11 1/16 x 14 7/16 in. (28.1 x 36.7 cm) Sheet: 11 1/16 x 14 7/16 in. (28.1 x 36.7 cm) Frame: 16 7/8 x 22 7/8 x 1 1/2 in. (42.9 x 58.1 x 3.8 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 00.159.231
    CREDIT LINE Purchased by public subscription
    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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    CAPTION James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The Grotto of the Agony (La Grotte de l'agonie), 1886-1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on dark brown wove paper, Image: 11 1/16 x 14 7/16 in. (28.1 x 36.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.231
    IMAGE overall, 00.159.231_PS1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2006
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