©1985 Trustees For Harvard University, Dumbarton Oaks

Brilliant red and gold mosaic glass delineates the bearded head of Jesus, seen this detail from an early 13th-century mosaic panel in the west arm of the church of San Marco in Venice. Red tesserae used in the face highlight the nose, mouth and upper eyelids. In the nimbus, or halo, surrounding the head, red tesserae illumine the splendid gold background of the nimbus and accentuate the gem-encrusted pearl-white cross, three arms of which are partially visible.

Note the careful attention to detail in depicting the face, for example, in the use of a single slightly larger oval tessera to show the light reflecting off the tip of the nose, and the use of a circular patch of flesh-colored stones to suggest the contour of the right cheekbone.

The head of Jesus inclines slightly forward, his dark eyes cast downward— toward Peter (not shown), who kneels before him. This detail comes from the mosaic panel representing the Agony in the Garden, as narrated in the Synoptic Gospels. After the last Supper, Jesus went with his disciples to the Garden of Gethesemane to pray and to await his betrayal. Shortly thereafter Judas came to Jesus and by his kiss betrayed him to the armed Romans waiting to capture him (Matthew 26:36–50).