Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ: analysis and curiosities

img Caravaggio, Presa di Cristo, collezione privata (2)

Have you ever wondered what secrets lie behind Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ, one of the most intense and emotionally charged works of Baroque art?
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, who was born in Milan in 1571 and died in Porto Ercole in 1610, is known for his ability to capture humanity and spirituality in his paintings.
His “Taking of Christ,” part of the Mattei collection, is an extraordinary example of his talent and style. This work marks a profound turning point in Caravaggio’s artistic expression, in contrast to his earlier works that were predominantly focused on mythological and genre themes.

Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ: analysis and curiosities

img Caravaggio, Presa di Cristo, collezione privata (1)

Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ is not just a painting but a story full of pathos and spiritual intensity. This work, in fact, represents a private equivalent of the astonishing canvases made for the Contarelli Chapel and the Cerasi Chapel, highlighting a radical turning point in Caravaggio’s artistic production after years devoted mainly to genre and mythological subjects.
The controversial history of this painting and its numerous versions, especially those in the Ruffo di Calabria collection and the Jesuit Company in Dublin, have provoked debate and admiration in equal measure.


Surprisingly, no work by Caravaggio has had such a tormented collecting history as the “Taking of Christ.”
This work has gone through moments worthy of a thriller novel, including daring thefts and intricate court cases. Its complexity, along with its iconographic, iconological and conceptual content, significantly distinguishes it from Merisi’s other private works.

Notably, the work disappeared from public collections and re-emerged from oblivion only under exceptional circumstances, attracting the attention of critics and art lovers alike. By contrast,
the version of Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ kept in Dublin was rediscovered only in 1993 within the storerooms of the National Gallery of Ireland, hidden under years of dirt and old paint. Its circuitous route includes passages between several distinguished private collections, including the Mattei collection, the Colonna di Stigliano collection, and the Ruffo di Calabria collection, before finding a home with its current owner.

Thus, the two most interesting versions of Caravaggio’s Taking of Christ are the one in the Ruffo di Calabria collection, found in 1943 by art historian Roberto Longhi, and the one found in Dublin.


From October 14, 2023 to January 14, 2024, Palazzo Chigi in Ariccia will open its doors to exhibit, after careful restoration and in-depth diagnostic analysis, Caravaggio’s masterpiece belonging to the Ruffo di Calabria collection.
Prior to this date, the work had been presented to the public only once, in 1951, and it is now presented in all its authenticity and has been recognized by the Italian state as a work of exceptional national interest.

At this extraordinary exhibition, visitors can see the finally restored work and also have an immersive experience, thanks to the reconstruction of Caravaggio’s atelier in a room with black walls and diagonal lighting from above, just as described in historical sources. Visitors can also explore x-rays of the work, comparisons with the Dublin version, and documentation of copies of the work.
Parallel works, such as Cavalier d’Arpino’s “Taking of Christ” and a painting by Giorgione, are presented to offer additional perspectives on Caravaggio’s composition.

img Caravaggio, Presa di Cristo, collezione privata (4)

The exhibition extends beyond “The Taking of Christ,” presenting contemporary copies of famous Caravaggio paintings by well-known artists, and an extraordinary statue of St. Philip Neri, highlighting the link between Caravaggio’s aesthetic and the religious devotion of the time. This exceptional exhibition will continue its journey, next finding a home in a prestigious museum venue in Naples, continuing to enchant and educate future generations about Caravaggio’s priceless legacy.


The Taking of Christ from the Ruffo Collection
curated by Francesco Petrucci
Ariccia, Palazzo Chigi
October 14, 2023-January 14, 2024


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