Michael Wolgemut (Werkstatt): Johannes auf Patmos (Schlafender Johannes am Ölberg?), nach 1496, Feder in Schwarz über Spuren von schwarzem Stift auf rötlich getöntem Büttenpapier, 295 x 197 mm. Inv. Nr. H62/B 121, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Graphische Sammlung, Erlangen
Andrea Mantegna: Christ au Jardin des Oliviers / Christus am Ölberg (ehem. Predella des Polyptychon für S. Zeno, Verona), ca. 1459, Mischtechnik auf Holz auf Leinwand übertragen, 71,1 x 93,7 cm. Inv. Nr. 1803-1-24, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Tours
The Passion narratives in the Gospels report that in the night before he was crucified, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives with three of his disciples, Peter, James and John. Fearing death, he begged God the Father to spare him the cup of sorrow but nonetheless submitted to his will. Meanwhile, the disciples, whom he had requested to keep watch with him, had fallen asleep and left him alone in his hour of need. Dürer depicted this scene, in which the dual nature of Christ as both Man and God is revealed in a particularly dramatic manner, many times in drawings and prints. He was greatly preoccupied by deep mental anguish and its conquest by the mind.
This vividly executed pen-and-ink drawing in the possession of the Städel Museum was produced during Dürer's journey to the Netherlands and is mentioned in his diary in May 1521. A rock rising up in the foreground is drawn with orderly and yet lively pen strokes; on it, Christ is shown, lying face down and with arms outstretched, imploring God. In front of him a small angel is holding out the cup of sorrow. Behind the rock, in the middle ground, we can see the garden and the sleeping disciples in the darkness of night with; in the distance on the right is the procession of captors coming to arrest Jesus. In this state of being at their mercy, Jesus seems both of this earth and thus human, and floating and hence belonging to the sphere of heaven. The latter is present in the form of the angel, a band of cloud and the approaching strip of fog. The disciples are fast asleep and firmly anchored in the here and now; they notice nothing of this spiritual dimension.
Dürer usually represented the scenes of the Passion in vertical format. The horizontal format used here allows this 1521 drawing to develop an epic tranquillity which directs our attention more strongly onto the substance of what is happening and less so onto the drama of the events. There are several horizontal-format Passion drawings from the 1520s (including another sheet by Dürer in the Städel Museum, inv. no. 694). If Dürer was indeed planning a horizontal-format series of woodcuts of the Passion at this time, then this drawing should be regarded as a sketch for a printed sheet. However, no such series was ever produced; a horizontal woodcut of the 'Last Supper' from 1523 addresses contemporary issues of the Reformation and should not be seen as part of a series.