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In the Gefsimansky garden

in the Gethsemane garden peace reigns before Christ’s passion

Close to Easter, it is a pleasure to discover this beautiful oil on canvas called “In the Gefsimansky garden” (85x70 cm). It came out of the brush and the mind of Ukrainian artist Svyatoslav Ryabkin who is currently going through a terrible time united with his people.

This painting depicts the religious scene on the Mount of Olives, a small olive grove just outside the old city of Jerusalem (in Aramaic the word "Gethsemane" means oil mill). Jesus looks up at the observer, interrupting his prayer. Who does he see? An armed mob led by Judas, the traitor apostle who will have him arrested. This place has become a pilgrimage destination for Christians and has welcomed many buildings of worship over the years.

The painter Ryabkin calmed the vividness of the warm colours of the ground using bright areas on the robes and tablecloths lying on the ground. In the foreground, three disciples fell asleep near the food after finishing the banquet. Essential features render the expressiveness of their quiet faces. The bread, the bottle that contained the wine and the fish, now reduced to a fishbone, are the traditional symbols of Christianity. In the background there is the huddled figure of Jesus who knows that he will leave the earthly world by the will of God. The chalice of wine, on the table beside him, disappears into the gold of the sunlit earth like Jesus who will "disappear" in the divine light.

The artist Svyatoslav, called Slava by his friends, has got a deep Orthodox faith and several times has depicted the subjects of the Christian religion, such as the fish. Do you remember his interpretation of the Last Supper in “The Last Supper” picture (60x100 cm)? According to the Gospels, this moment precedes the scene in the Gethsemane garden.
The Ukrainian artist has interpreted Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance. “His” disciples are painted in stylized and impersonal way and the setting devoid of the perspective. Even in this case where a religious subject is painted, strong and contrasting colours are used almost as if it was a childish drawing. This is the painter’s unmistakable trait: he always remains faithful to himself. Also in this canvas the details intrigue, such as the basins with the towel for washing the disciples’ feet, on the left, and Judas’ shamefaced figure in the lower right corner who is leaving the scene after having been announced his betrayal.

"In the Gefsimansky garden" was exhibited in the suggestive Villa Simion Gallery (in Spinea, near Venice). The multicoloured canvas conveys a sense of conviviality but the dark elements harden the scene: the disciples' dark beards and their layed bodies create shaded areas on the ground. Furthermore, in the sky the delicacy of the blue and pink brushstrokes is brutally interrupted by the thick branches of the olive trees which, parallel to each other, are a sort of repeated modules which, without the ends, lose all realistic connotations and natural harmony. In your opinion, dear Readers, do they remember forks (referring to the banquet that has just ended) or pitchforks (the weapons of the armed crowd)?
The black branches are furrowed with straight ribs, on the other hand, most of the elements on the canvas are lined with vertical and horizontal lines that "check" the matter spread out copiously.

This intense oil on canvas was made in 2009, in the same year of another religious-themed painting called “The robber reasonable” (80x60 cm). Notice how the focus is on Jesus’ gaze that saving the redeemed thief. The face in peace of the latter is worth the picture. It is interesting how the artist has rendered the enthusiasm of the second thief crucified with Jesus on Golgotha (in Aramaic or Calvary in Latin), a small hill on the north of Jerusalem. He has got wild eyes as long as he challenges and insults Jesus.

Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, risen on the third day after his death, leaving the tomb empty, as the Gospels tell us.
Today we present chocolate eggs but before, as a sign of rebirth, real eggs with coloured shells were given. In Abruzzo and Friuli Venezia Giulia (places in Italy) the farmers added holy water to food while in many other areas of Italy bonfires were lighted beacause the blessed fire was considered a sacred symbol.

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by Elena Sechet

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