did judas iscariot have god on his sidesearching for caravaggio – 4th entry


I’ve been listening it Dylan’s “With God on Our Side” and
the second-to-last verse:
through many a dark hour
i’ve been thinkin’ about this
that jesus christ
was betrayed by a kiss
but i can’t think for you
you’ll have to decide
whether judas iscariot
had god on his side.

brought me to Caravaggio’s painting.

The Cattura di Cristo nell’orto – The Taking of Christ – was painted in Rome at the end of 1602. (The Italian title is great, full of alliteration and hard vowels.) Breaking with past traditions, Caravaggio offered a new perspective of the betrayal narrative; all emphasis is directed on the action perpetrated by Judas and the guards on an overwhelmed Jesus. The fleeing disciple on the left is John and the lantern holder on the right is Caravaggio himself at the age of thirty one.

The flight of the terrified John contrasts with the entrance of the artist; it seems that Caravaggio is making the point that even a sinner, one thousand years later, has a better understanding of Christ than one of his own apostles. Two of the more puzzling details of the painting are the fact that the heads of Jesus and John seem to visually meld together; and the prominent presence of the arresting officer’s highly polished, metal-clad arm.

The painting is in Dublin in the National Gallery of Art.