The kiss of judas


One of the key events in Christian history has been invariably treated by artists as an arrested moment, illustrating the timeless and absolute conflict between good and evil. This composition also has a definitive point of fixation of the action, its pivot located precisely on the boundary between the betrayed (Jesus) and the betrayer (Judas). Both figures are represented half-turned, as if halted while running – this acute sense of motion is produced by the fluttering flappers of the clothes. However, each figure’s structure is defined by a neat vertical. This combination of oppositely directed vectors of motion (forward and up) resembles the rhythms of Gothic cathedrals with their conspicuous direction toward the sacred: to the altar and to heaven. The fatal kiss is about to happen, after which events will follow their preordained course. In anticipation of the climax, the strain reaches a peak. The drama inherent in the scene is reinforced by the forms, with lapidary surfaces boldly cleft with deep, sharp cuts, either nearly graphic or with elements of counterform. Some projected details (the elbow, sole and hand) become nervous syncopes in the general emotional melody. A certain geometrical quality and some conventional elements turn the image into a well thought-out formula of eternal confrontation.

 

Brief annotations to the image

THE KISS OF JUDAS is an episode from the Gospel when Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus Christ’s disciples, betrayed his teacher one night in the Garden of Gethsemane by identifying him for the guards with a kiss: “lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.” (Matthew 26:47-49)