roma 17: Finding Caravaggio

ft.pngThe Fortune Teller, an early work of the master in the Capitoline collection

Another copy exists in the Louvre.

A while back, I had read the definitive biography, M: The Man Who Became Caravaggio by Robb  and blogged on some of the work of Michelangelo Merisi (1571 – 1610) , or as we know himCaravaggio. Thus, seeing a second version of The Fortune Teller, but with more classic treatment of the male (the Louvre version seems to be a portraits of one of his assistants or friends).

S. Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist) also on view at the Capitoline.

The St. John in the Capitoline is Caravaggio at his classic style. The use of red for the drapery and the chiaroscuro used on the figure, already gives you an idea where Rubens and Correggio will go, with slightly broader palettes. After seeing the Rafaello rooms in the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, you kind of get the reaction to the color constrain that Caravaggio is going for. His concentration of flesh tones and the use of red and medium blue, go far against the black grounds.

Deposizione (The Entombment of Christ) at the Pinacoteca at the Vatican Museums

The last time I saw this was at a terrific show of Caravaggio, at Scuderie del Quirinale. Desposizione was as striking as it is today. The sculptural effects he creates in this tight space is amazing, including the way the stone they are standing on juts out. Of all his work the faces are beautifully done, especially the women, watch how the hands lead in and out of space of the group.

 Mary Magdalena (center) is truly one of the most beautiful women Caravaggio has ever painted for me.

Look at the slight angle change of the heads from John to Nicedomus

Too bad the lighting of the painting led to a flair, but overall the beauty of the faces in this one is incredible.  The beauty of simplicity, the great use of drawing. It will always be amazing to me, that Caravaggio began painting directly on canvas without dozens of preliminary drawings!

But BINGO! San Luigi dei Francesi holds three Caravaggio’s in one small chapel.

In Rome you can explore and find artist’s work onsite, as they were intended to be displayed. This is the story of Caravaggio’s series on St. Matthew. East of the Piazza Navona, in the beautiful church of San Luigi dei Francesci in a little corner chapel, for nothing, but a few coins, if you wish, you can see a display of at least two of his finest paintings. In order to really see the paintings, everyone takes turns popping in coins for the lights to stay on.

As you cannot enter the chapel it is difficult to photograph both The Calling of Saint Matthew and The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew, as they are on right angles. The reason for the fuzziness of the images are due to correction of the parallax with photoshop. The vantage point also led way to the unwanted glare.

San Matteo e angelo (The Inspiration of Saint Matthew)

It is a shame that they are set so closely and the vantage point harder to see. Especially the The Calling of Saint Matthew, which is incredible in its darkness. Like a light out of darkness, Jesus stumbles into a den of dandies (check the get-ups) to call out St. Matthew, either drunk or afraid. The compressing of the action into areas leaving lots of space above, and the  gesture Christ’s hand already begin hands moving all over. Things learned from Leonardo and Michelangelo, and passed on to artists like Caravaggio and Andrea del Sarto.

Vocazione di San Matteo (The Calling of Saint Matthew), best I could do.

Vocazione di San Matteo (The Calling of Saint Matthew) (detail)

Notice how the two younger males at the right end of the table nearer to Christ, actually seem to move away from the table to open up space. Notice that face of the boy is probably Cecco at the back end. This is the face of Caravaggio’s apprentice and is seen in several paintings here, including , the angel in The Inspiration of Saint Matthew, as well as St. John the Baptist. He is probably also the boy in The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew. 

This is one painting in spite of the neutral background, where the colors the dandy’s wear, seem so outstanding. The tone here is less somber than The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew where everything is almost the same color and the figures more in a deeper space.

Martirio di San Matteo (The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew)

The space is more an indication of the work he will do beginning in Naples. A good link from the space created in Raphael’s work and eventually moving full force in the work of Correggio and Tiepolo.



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