The capture of Jesus is an episode of the Passion of Jesus described in the four Gospels.
This episode follows the Last Supper and is the beginning of the Passion, which ended on the afternoon of the next day with the death of Jesus on the cross. After the Last Supper, Jesus and his disciples left and went to Gethsemane, a garden located on the edge of the Kidron valley (which scholars believe was an olive grove). When they arrived, Jesus left the Apostles and went to pray alone.
Gethsemane (gath shemanim) means "oil press," and presumably there was an olive grove, equipped with an olive press. As soon as they arrived in the garden, Jesus commanded the twelve to camp there while he went away to pray. He asked Peter, James and John to accompany him and then went to a more secluded place to pray alone. When Jesus came back, he found the three chosen Apostles sleeping and called them to prayer: "Could you not keep watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" .
Jesus returned to pray, praying with the same intensity as before, but he was burdened with anguish. He went to seek human comfort and found the Apostles asleep again. After awakening them, he retired to pray for the third time and with the same words as before. His anguish was so great that an angel from heaven appeared to comfort him. Jesus prayed more earnestly.
Christ praying contrasts with the behaviour of the Apostles. In the distance, one could already hear the Sanhedrin guards arriving. Jesus called his disciples to him and commanded them to stand up because the traitor had now come. A series of significant events happened in this garden: Jesus praying; the betrayal of Judas; Peter wounding one of the soldiers; the miracle of Jesus reattaching the ear and the capture of Jesus.
The representation Ghiberti has chosen focuses on the scene where Christ is caught in a moment of intense prayer in direct contact with God, comforted by the presence of an angel, while further down one can see the three sleeping Apostles. The composition is crowded into the quatrefoil as if Ghiberti were announcing that the size and geometrics of the panel are a limitation that will later be transcended at the Gates of Paradise. The scene is filled with a clear reference to nature. The perfectly modelled rocks act as a proscenium; the composition is organized according to the diagonals of the quatrefoil and the perfect balance of shapes governs the compositional tension. Looking from the bottom left diagonally towards the right is the extremely naturalistic depiction of the trees. Christ on the top left is the culmination of the imaginary line that runs diagonally down to the right where two of the Apostles are sleeping. The third apostle, the youngest, almost emerges from the relief in the foreground at the centre and represents the depth of space emphasized by the figure of the angel, at top centre, modelled in bas relief. The figures on the panel reveal late Gothic style in the drapery while the representation of the trees reveals the new interest in naturalism and abandoning medieval Gothic styles, a model never equalled.