Neopastel on Canvas

This painting was presented to Savio College during Lent of 2022, and forms part of the permanent Art collection displayed at Savio College. It is by Ernest Vella who happens to be, Art and Applied Archaeology teacher at Savio College.

La Ġġarrabnix alludes to the betrayal of Jesus. The action takes place against a red sky, symbol of Jesus’ blood, and beneath a tree. The tree that supplies the cross, our salvation and the tree from which Judas ends his life. As Judas is stooping down to kiss Jesus, he starts to dismantle into several pieces. This is due to failing in understanding the true nature of Jesus. The purple colour of Judas’ robe, is a symbol of humanity. Purple is the result of blue mixed with red. Blue represents spirituality and red denotes, love, life and the carnal aspect. Hence this colour represents us, who are physical and spiritual beings.

Judas is in the act of embracing Jesus, whilst in the other hand he holds a golden crown. Some scholars are of the opinion that Judas betrayed Jesus not for money, as 30 silver coins was a cheap sum,  but because Jesus did not fit Judas’  concept of a powerful  Messiah.[1]

With his kiss, Judas wants to provoke Jesus into becoming a physical Messiah  trampling his enemies who came to capture him. But  Jesus does not look at Judas. Instead he is sitting in a crouched position,  afraid of what he has to experience, and  saddened by Judas failure to understand him.  His gaze falls on a white  small flower, symbolizing his ressurection. After all, the passion of Christ would make no sense if he did not rise from death (Paul in 1 Corinthians 15). On the other hand  Judas  is so absorbed in his idea of the powerful messiah, that he  is trampling another flower, representing hope.

In the artist’s words, “This painting is not an accusation of Judas. Indeed,  I feel that more often than not I behave like this Judas. The Covid-19 pandemic shook my feeble faith in Jesus as Son of God. More than once I  have asked ‘Why, God, why you let such things happen? Why do  you let Covid-19 paralyse us, creating suffering among the most vulnerable people. Why do you let our greed  destroy the world we live in? Why do you let leaders fomenting wars bringing misery to masses of people? I have no answers'”.

However, through life’s experience the artist is becoming aware that faith is accepting God as he is. The title La iġġarrabnix;  iġġarrab in Maltese means to alter one’s clothes or to pass from a trial:  “La Ġġarrabnix, is Jesus invitation not  to alter him in the way it fits me, but to let him guide me through my life’s journey.”

[1] Uraguchi B. 1918- The Psychology of Judas Iscariot, in the Biblical World Vol 51, No. 6 pp 345-360. The University Chicago Press.