The young Chassériau received his first commission, for the altarpiece of the church of Saint Jean d’Angély, at the age of twenty-one. In his interpretation of Christ in the Garden of Olives, Jesus is visited by three angels: an angel with a chalice, below; an angel in the center (represented in this study); and an angel with a cross, above. The angels above and below symbolize Christ’s Passion, while this angel brings heaven’s response to his agony and strengthens him for the ordeal. As part of his working process, Chassériau painted a full-scale study, or model, of each angel. This advanced stage of his preparation is represented by the present painting; the studies for the other two angels are in private collections.
"Acquisitions of the Princeton University Art Museum 2007," in "More than one: photographs in sequence," special issue, Record of the Princeton University Art Museum 67 (2008): p. 96-119.
Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton University Art Museum: Handbook of the Collection, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007).