Everybody knows the story of the man infamously known for his kiss and betrayal of Jesus in exchange for a payment of thirty silver coins.
It is the story of betrayal, which is the worst pain in the world, because it goes beyond the physical, further beyond any other emotional pain one can feel. Betrayal never comes from an enemy...but comes from a friend. It injures the heart, and leaves you in the desert, your mouth dry and will broken. The wound lasts a lifetime. Our only defense is to distrust each other.
The interesting feature of this painting, though, is how Repin gives to us the other side of the story. We are confronted with Judas’ anxiety and torment. Remove the religious implications for a moment and consider the man and his horrors; the fearful, acute suspense, his heart beating violently, the sinking of soul and spirit, and the breath come thick.
Why is this such a compelling image for us, today?
W. H. Auden once said, “Now is the age of anxiety.” We, as artists, have learned to live with it and use it to our advantage, even though a high price may be paid in terms of insecurity, sensitivity, and defenselessness for the gift of “divine madness.” Some, like T.S. Eliot, even believe that anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity.