collection
oilpainting: 53,6 cm x 43,9 cm
1923-E

Two monks kneel before an altar with a crucifix in a rugged landscape. The one cries out in despair with his arms raised to heaven. The other meekly bows his head and places his lot in Christs hands. A third monk appears to have fallen asleep. The artist does not tell us a story but shows us three possible reactions to suffering: defiance, acceptance and escape. The composition and the oppressive atmosphere are reminiscent of depictions of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. The monks are members of the Order of the Camuldulenses, or White Robed Monks of St. Benedict, who lived a life of isolation as hermits in the mountains. Alessandro Magnasco, to whom this work was for many years attributed, preferred to paint scenes from the everyday lives of soldiers, vagabonds and gypsies. In his macabre scenes, populated with lonely monks and hermits, he evokes a fantastic, sometimes demonic and mystical world. The artists brushwork is nervous, sketchy and very direct. He gradually limited his colours to tones of grey with occasional touches of brilliant white. The painting we see here is a copy made by a direct successor of the master. The original is housed in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.