top of page

Judas Kiss

Exclusively online

Waldburger Wouters is pleased to present
Judas Kiss
an online group exhibition with

2. The fascinating composition betrays the creativity of a master-sculptor who, working within the strict canon of late Gothic sculpture, managed nonetheless to accentuate certain aspects in a highly personal manner.

The tableau, which has been cut from a larger altarpiece, has an extraordinarily cinematic character: in the absence of a perspective with a vanishing point the artist worked with an upper, middle and lower plane. At the bottom lies the lantern (signifying the arrival of dusk), which Malchus dropped in agony when his ear was severed. As in an early expressionist black-and-white film, the sculptor suggests that the lantern is shining upwards upon the three figures, evoking in the spectator’s mind an impression of long, looming shadows. Also at the bottom we see Malchus’ writhing, tormented body and his twisted face. His gaping mouth indicates that he is screaming, and so the sculptor manages not only to suggest light and shadows, but also sound.

All of this is contrasted strongly with the composed manner of the two figures at the top. In the central plane we see a number of key elements of the tableau. The first, as discussed, is Malchus’ dramatic, agonized expression. Above him are three hands, which hold the symbols of Good and Evil in this episode. Judas is holding the purse containing the 30 pieces of silver – his price for betrayal – and Jesus is holding Malchus’ ear in both hands, poised to attach it to his head again and heal his tormentor – His last miracle before His crucifixion. Destruction and healing are juxtaposed in the central plane.

Lastly, in the upper region we can observe how Jesus towers dignified and calm over all the dramatic clamour, and how Judas must lift his head in order to deliver his treacherous kiss. Jesus is smiling benevolently, for He knows all too well that Judas’ betrayal is a necessary step in His own duty to redeem mankind. Without Judas there would have been no arrest, without an arrest there would have been no crucifixion, and without the crucifixion, no salvation. And so the kiss becomes at once an act of betrayal and of redemption.

In that sense, the kiss represents – literally – Jesus’ embrace of His suffering.

The Hand of Judas

17th / 18th century


wooden polychromed fragment of a large sculpture, a hand with money purse containing 30 pieces of silver

Netherlands / Flanders

Julien Saudubray
Study #19
oil and dry pastel on canvas
60 x 50 cm

Imagine the drama!

The context: at the behest of high priest Kajafas, the servant/soldier Malchus must execute the arrest of Jesus Christ. But since Malchus has never seen Jesus before, Judas agrees – in exchange for 30 pieces of silver – to kiss Jesus upon Malchus’ arrival so that he can arrest the right person. The kiss thus becomes a symbol of betrayal, but as we will explain, this treacherous act enables the salvation of mankind.

This sculpture incarnates a pivotal moment in the life of Jesus Christ: His suffering is initiated by Judas’ betrayal and will culminate in the crucifixion. On the previous night, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had hesitated for a moment to fulfill His mission because of the immense suffering that awaited Him, only to go ahead and accomplish His task. In the deliciously dark and philosophically pessimistic TV series True Detective (season 1, 2014), detective “Rust” Cohle, torn between religion and atheism, decribes this moment as follows: “It is in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus decided to commit suicide.” 

I had not looked at it this way…


Two main qualities set this sculpture apart: its woodcutting technique and its remarkable composition. 


1. The superior cutting technique is reflected mainly in the exceptional expressiveness of the three faces: Jesus’ boundless softness, Judas’ perfidious duplicity, and the footman Malchus’ raw, primitive wickedness at the bottom. Moreover, we can see how the latter figure turns his face towards the viewer and how, in an almost photographically realistic manner, it is twisted with pain because Peter the Apostle has just severed his right ear. 

I also want to direct your attention to the juxtaposition of the serenely, vertically folding garments of the two standing figures on the one hand, and the dramatic, dynamic, diagonal folding in Malchus’ robe on the other.

Łukasz Stokłosa
graphite on paper
20 x 25 cm

Kyvèli Zoi
Juda’s Kiss Triptych
oil and gold leaf on linen
13 x 18 cm (each) 

Klara Hobza
Ears of a 38 and 48 year old
pencil on paper
 29,7 x 21 cm

Charles Hascoët
Juda's kiss
oil on canvas
39 x 30,5 cm

The composition as a whole shows how an artistic genius has, in a certain way, managed to direct and shoot what is very much a film scene. It is important to note that in the era when this sculpture was made most people did not know how to read. Images like this one, therefore, had not only a religious but also an important didactic function. To medieval spectators this was Bible school and Netflix all in one.

This group forms the central part of a greater whole in which the apostles look on from Jesus’ side, and a crowd of soldiers stand by on Judas’ side.

Without a doubt the sculpture used to be coloured with paint, as nearly all medieval sculptures were. Moreover, the bookkeeping accounts of the Sint-Lukas guild in Antwerp have taught us that the “stoffeerders” (the upholsterers, as the sculpture painters were called) were even better paid than the “snijders” (the woodcutters), meaning their work was considered to be even more prestigious than that of the sculptors. Unfortunately no traces are left of that erstwhile polychromy, but time did leave a beautiful, dark, and warmly glowing sheen on the wood.
We wish you the same.

Dirk Seghers
Seghers & Pang Fine Arts

True Detective - Rust & Martin Car Conversation Scene (HD)
Episode 1 Season 1 (S01E01)
Gangs of New York | ‘This Boy Has No Heart’ (HD)
Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz | MIRAMAX
The Simpsons
S3E4: Bart the Murderer
Modern day inspirations of the Judas Kiss

Ludovic Beillard 
Mols 1, Mols 2
wood (oak) on cushion
65 x 65 cm

Lukas Luzius Leichtle
Pastel and coloured pencil on paper
42 x 29,7 cm
Clara-Lane Lens
Embrace of betrayal
oil on canvas
40 x 50 cm 
Gotscha Gosalishvili 
Praying Hands (after Dürer)
32 x 15 x 15cm
Yann Nirvana Yoy
Van Kus Tot Kruis
oil on canvas
80 x 60 cm
Judas kiss (Germany, walnut, 15th century - detail)

The Kiss of Judas (details)

(Germany, 15th century)

wooden sculpture, walnut retable fragment,

some traces of xylophagi, wear and usure consistent with the age.

Dimensions (without stand): 46 x 16 x 9 cm

Probably middle Rhine area 

Charles Reynolds
Untitled 01
pencil drawing on illustration board
76,5 x 102 cm
Judas kiss (Germany, walnut, 15th century - detail)
Jot Fau
Tears for fears - heurs et malheurs
wood, leather, rope, polyester fabric, silk
24,5 x 20,5 x 4,5 cm
Scroll down

Judas Kiss

exclusively online
Delphine Hennelly
sennelier oil pastels on arches paper 
29 x 35,5 cm
bottom of page