In Caravaggio’s The Calling Of Saint Matthew, What Technique Adds To The Drama Of The Scene

The Calling of Saint Matthew, Caravaggio: Analysis

UNDERSTANDING ART For analysis of paintings byItalian Baroqueartists like Caravaggio, seeour educational articles:Art EvaluationandHow to Appreciate Paintings. Caravaggio, one of thebestartists of all time, is best known for his highly realistic styleofBaroque painting which – together with the classicism ofAnnibaleCarracci(1560-1609) – effectively buried the artificial idiom ofMannerismand revitalizedlarge scalereligious artin Rome andNaples. Although cursed with a violent nature, Caravaggio was one of themost influential Italian artists of the 17th century. Orphaned by theplague in 1584, he learnedpainting in Milan from Simone Peterzano, and around 1592 moved to Rome where -thanks togenre paintings likeThe Cardsharps(1594, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth) – herapidly acquired several patrons, one of whom – Cardinal Francesco MariaDel Monte – helped him to gain his first major public commission for theside walls of the Contarelli Chapel, in San Luigi dei Francesi. It involvedtwo pictures:The Calling of St Matthew(1599-1600) andTheMartyrdom of St Matthew(1599-1600). Both works were an immediatesuccess, and were followed by a series of masterpieces that made him themost exciting painter ofreligiouspaintingsin Rome. What made Caravaggio so unique, was the true-lifenaturalismthat made hisfigures seem completely real. Unfortunately, some conservative ecclesiasticsconsidered his style of painting to be too vulgar, although it was muchsought after byart collectorsandother painters. After his death, his signature style of painting – basedon his use oftenebrismandchiaroscuro – would become known asCaravaggism and influence painters throughout Europe. The Calling of Saint Matthewdepictsthe moment when Jesus Christ inspires Matthew to follow him and becomean apostle. The picture was commissioned by the will of Cardinal MatthewContarelli, who had provided resources and specific guidelines for thedecoration of a chapel based on scenes from the life of his namesake,Saint Matthew. The ceiling of the chapel had already been decorated withfrescoesby the popular Manneristpainter Cavaliere d’Arpino (Giuseppe Cesari) (1568-1640), but becausehe was too busy with papal work to decorate the walls, Del Monte intervenedto secure the job for Caravaggio. The Calling of Saint Matthewillustratesthe passage in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 9:9), when Jesus went intothe custom house, saw Matthew at his seat and called to him, “Followme”. According to the story Matthew rose and followed him. In thepainting, Christ (on the right, behind Peter) points to Levi, the tax-collector(the bearded man wearing a beret, who also appears in the two other Matthewpaintings in the chapel) – and calls upon him to become the apostle Matthew.Although Levi is well to the left of the picture, the viewer’s attentionis nevertheless drawn to him by the hands pointing at him as well as bythe intensity of the light shining on him. In keeping with his plain, unvarnishedaesthetics, Caravaggio borrowsfrom his earliergenre painting (The Cardsharps,The Fortune-Teller), and sets the scenein what appears to be a tavern, rather than a counting house or office.He may have modelled it on earlier examples ofNorthernRenaissance art- by Hans Holbein and others – featuring money lendersseated around a table. In addition, he introduces some very human interplayinto the situation. To begin with, when he sees Christ pointing at him,Levi responds with a gesture, as if to say “Me?” indicatinghis uncertainty whether he is being addressed, or the younger man slumpedon his right. In addition, the ray of light illuminatingtheir faces, draws attention to the two youths, who appear rather lostin this group of older men. While one of them draws back in apprehensionand looks to his older neighbour for protection, the other has turnedto confront Christ, causing Saint Peter to gesture firmly for calm. Throughthe visual contrast between their reactions, Caravaggio displays psychologicalinsight into two possible patterns of human behaviour in the same situation.

Calling of Saint Matthew by Caravaggio: Analysis

The structure and meaning of Caravaggio’s first large-scale oil painting, The Calling of Saint Matthew (1599-1600), which is housed in the San Luigi dei Francesi cathedral in Rome, are discussed in this text lesson.

Ottavio Leoni, Portrait of Caravaggio (c. 1621), Biblioteca Marucelliana, Florence.

The Birth of an Artist’s Career

Artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) is recognized today for his moralizing and at times controversial body of work, which he created during the Italian Baroque period. The Calling of Saint Matthew, a life-size oil painting by Caravaggio that began his career and elevated him to the position of most sought-after religious painter in Rome, will be the subject of this text lesson, which will examine its meaning.

The Contarelli Chapel in San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome, Italy.

At 1599, Caravaggio was commissioned to paint the lateral walls of the Contarelli Chapel in San Luigi dei Francesci, the national church of France in Rome. The work was completed in 1599. Upon the death of the French cardinal Matthieu Cointerel (known in Italian as ‘Contarelli’), an endowment was established to support the embellishment of the Contarelli Chapel, which was completed in 1585. Contarelli requested that scenes from the life of Saint Matthew, after whom he was named, be included into the design of his chapel.

Matthew’s martyrdom was chosen for the chapel’s left wall because it was the most dramatic.

He had never painted on such a vast scale before; his previous work had consisted mostly of works for private devotion, pictures of ordinary life, and allegories praising love and music; his previous work had been restricted to these types of subjects.

The Calling of Saint Matthew

Saints are being called to serve. Matthew shows the scene from Matthew 9:9 in which Jesus walks by Matthew, a tax collector, and says, ‘Follow me.’ Matthew is a tax collector himself. Matthew (also known as Levi) followed Jesus’ instructions and was accepted as one of his twelve followers. When the religious authorities reprimanded Jesus for associating with tax collectors, he responded by explaining that he was there to redeem sinners, not the pious, and that he had come to save them. While the narrative may appear straightforward, it conveyed the message that even those who were regarded to be the worst of human beings might be rescued and were invited to join Jesus in his mission.

Caravaggio, The Calling of Saint Matthew (1599-1600). Contarelli Chapel, San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome, Italy.

Caravaggio’s Composition

Saints are being called. Matthew represents the scene from Matthew 9:9 in which Jesus walks by Matthew, a tax collector, and says, ‘Follow me.’ Matthew is a tax collector. Matthew (also known as Levi) followed Jesus’ instructions and was accepted as one of his twelve followers. Despite the fact that the religious authorities reprimanded Jesus for associating with sinners rather than the virtuous, he responded by explaining that he was there to help sinners rather than the just.

The parable, while simple on the surface, conveyed the message that even those who were regarded to be the worst of humanity might be rescued and welcomed into Jesus’ circle of followers.

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Calling of Saint Matthew, The

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is the artist who created this work. 1600 was the year that the composition was completed. Baroque is a period of artistic development. Italy is the country of origin. The first floor of the Château was discovered: Concerning the Artwork Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio painted his monumental The Calling of Saint Matthew in 1599, depicting the climactic moment in which Jesus Christ persuades Matthew to follow him. His other paintings of Saint Matthew, The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew(1600) and The Inspiration of Saint Matthew(1600), may be seen in the Contarelli Chapel of San Luigi dei Francesi (Rome, Italy), where they can be found together with this one (1602).

  • A prominent example of this is Caravaggio’s use ofchiaroscurois in his painting The Calling of Saint Matthew.
  • The light that emanates from the upper-right section of the picture (and which lights the saint) is really a parody of the church depicted by Caravaggio in the same location.
  • The light from the window beams exactly at the same angle and in the same direction as the light painted by Caravaggio within the corner of The Calling of Saint Matthew in the same room.
  • His large-scale paintings were not only accurate in their depiction of individuals, objects, and nature, but they also delved into the emotions and souls of those who viewed them.
  • His works such as theCrucification of Saint Peter(1601), Judith Beheading Holofernes(1599), and theCalling of Saint Matthew(1601) demonstrate his dramatic and enthralling grandeur (1600).
  • Following the Renaissance, the Catholic Church and the Counter-Reformation used Baroque art to entice citizens away from plain and austere Protestantism and back into the fold of the Catholic Church.
  • The artwork and sculpture of the Baroque period tended to be very ornamental and lavish, producing dramatic sceneries and vivid tales via their use of color and texture.

The original work of art is located in the Contarelli Chapel of the San Luigi dei Francesi Basilica in Rome, Italy.

The Calling of St. Matthew

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was an Italian painter who lived in the sixteenth century. 1600 was the year when the piece was written down. Baroque is a period of artistic expression. Italy is my home country. There is a first floor in the Château. The Artwork in its Own Right Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio painted his monumental The Calling of Saint Matthew in 1599, depicting the climactic moment in which Jesus Christ persuades Matthew to follow him as a disciple. His other paintings of Saint Matthew, The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew(1600) and The Inspiration of Saint Matthew(1600), may be seen in the Contarelli Chapel of San Luigi dei Francesi (Rome, Italy) beside this one (1602).

  • Caravaggio’s use ofchiaroscurois is most noticeable in The Calling of Saint Matthew.
  • This painting is actually a parody of Caravaggio’s chapel, as seen by the light emanating from the upper-right section of the canvas (which illuminates the saint).
  • As seen in Caravaggio’s painting The Calling of Saint Matthew, the light from the window beams precisely at and in the same direction as the light from the same window.
  • Caravaggio was better known simply as Caravaggio.
  • Using the element ofchiaroscuro (which is the technique of combining extreme bright tones with extreme dark tones for a dramatic contrast) in his paintings, Caravaggio was able to depict very dramatic and emotional scenarios in his work.
  • The Movement’s Background Information The composition of The Calling of Saint Matthew took place during the Baroque period in art history.
  • The artwork and sculpture of the Baroque period tended to be very ornamental and lavish, resulting in dramatic sceneries and vivid tales via their use of color and form.

In the Contarelli Chapel of San Luigi dei Francesi, in the heart of Rome’s historic district, is the original piece of art.

85. Calling of Saint Matthew, Caravaggio – AP Art History

  • Caravaggio’s painting, c. 1599-1600
  • Oil on canvas
  • Housed in the Contarelli chapel, San Luigi dei Francesci, Rome
  • Painted by Caravaggio
  • Tax collector Matthew sits at a table, counting money and generally acting suspiciously
  • Jesus enters from the right, with Saint Peter at his side
  • He extends his hand to Matthew and says, “I’m going to show you something.” “n’est-ce pas? I’m looking for you “in addition to this, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected]
  • Matthew is singled out by Jesus, who invites him to come along with him and his disciples.
  • Matthew makes a pointing motion to himself, as if he doesn’t believe it.
  • In this scene, the action takes place in what looks to be a bar or pub.
  • In this painting, the characters are all clothed in current garb, placing the event in the time of Caravaggio rather than biblical periods.
  • Matthew’s experience as a sinner turned disciple is transformed into something that is relatable to and achievable for the average Roman citizen as a result of this transformation.
  • It is more in tune with Caravaggio’s personal experiences
  • If the lighting plays an active role in the action or storyline, rather than simply providing an overall, ethereal glow as was done in the high renaissance, the lighting is more realistic.
  • It appears as though light is flowing in from the open doorway behind Jesus and Peter
  • There is a distinct light SOURCE visible.
  • According to appearances, light is flowing in from the open doorway behind Jesus and Peter
  • There is a distinct light SOURCE visible
  • It draws attention to Matthew’s face and nearly appears to be an extension of Jesus’ pointed finger.
  • In “The Creation of Adam” (Sistine Chapel ceiling), Michelangelo’s hand of God is depicted in a similar configuration to Jesus’s outstretched hand
  • Jesus is frequently referred to as “the second Adam” since he, too, was formed by God and is the redeemer of Adam’s original sin
  • The aesthetic similarity between Michelangelo’s and Caravaggio’s works draws attention to Christ’s role as “the redeemer,” and generates a full-circle/bookend effect.
  • Teaching the account of Saint Matthew’s Calling from a Catholic viewpoint (including the recognition of Saints) is intended to convey the story.
  • In order to persuade believers in Catholic ideas and to inspire support for the Counter-Reformation/Catholic Reformation, the following goals were established:
  • Bring the audience into a personal encounter with the artwork
  • Placement in everyday life
  • Current attire
  • Realism and naturalism
  • People of different levels of education, experience, and lifestyles may now benefit from the “Catholic method,” which was before inaccessible to them.
  • The Catholic Church reacted against the Protestant Reformation, which began with Martin Luther (1517)
  • After a period of austerity and withdrawal from lavish art, the Catholic Church experienced a revival in Rome
  • And after a period of austerity and withdrawal from lavish art, the Catholic Church experienced a revival in the United States.
  • Engage believers in the Catholic faith via riveting drama, theatrics, and breathtaking beauty in artwork and architecture
  • And
  • Want to elicit an overwhelming emotional response from individuals when they see Catholic-inspired art
  • Making a distinction between their approach to Christianity and that of the Protestants
  • Chiaroscuro with high contrast
  • Diagonal lines
  • Harsh, gritty realism
  • And more.
  • Instead of exaggerated realism, flawless realism of the high renaissance
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The Calling of Saint Matthew

  • Date of creation: 1600
  • Height (in centimeters): 340.00
  • Length (in centimeters): 322.00
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Support: canvas Aerial view of the landscape. Art Movement:
  • Baroque. Created by:
  • San Luigi dei Francesi is the owner of this property, which is now located in Rome, Italy.
  • In this section, you will find information on the work’s content, including its story and theme, inspirations for the work, analysis, and critical reception. You will also find information about related paintings, the artist, the art period, and bibliography.
  • The Calling of Saint Matthew
  • The Calling of Saint MatthewCaravaggio
  • The Calling of Saint Matthew

Saint Matthew was one of the twelve apostles and the author of the first Gospel, which is known as the Gospel of Matthew. Interestingly, the story of Saint Matthew’s summoning may be found in Matthew 9:9 of the New Testament: “And as Jesus was passing through there, he noticed a man sitting in the customs house named Matthew, and he called out to him, saying, “Follow me.” And he got to his feet and followed him.” Matthew was a Jewish tax collector who was also known as Levi the toll collector at one point in his career.

  1. The erratic Matthew, who was likely obsessed with money, was called into Jesus’ ministry when Matthew was working at the tax collector’s stand in Capernaum.
  2. Caravaggio captures the exact moment that Matthew recognizes that he is being summoned in this picture, which was completed in 1510.
  3. In order to pay for the adornment of his chapel with episodes from the life of Saint Matthew, who is also his namesake, Cardinal Matteo Contarelli had been saving for years.
  4. However, he was unable to complete the work due to his numerous other engagements.
  5. This was Caravaggio’s first significant commission, and the finished piece would get both the greatest acclaim and the sharpest condemnation for its stunningly creative manner.
  6. This theme was commonly utilized as a pretext for anecdotal genre paintings both before and after Caravaggio, and it continues to do so today.
  7. Caravaggio pulls inspiration for this piece from his own world, re-creating a biblical scenario in the context of contemporary life.
  8. When he became dissatisfied with the traditions of modern idealizing historical painting, he reverted to the topics of his childhood, which had previously brought him fame.
  • The Calling of Saint MatthewCaravaggio
  • The Calling of Saint MatthewCaravaggio

The Calling of Saint Matthew may be split into two portions based on its composition. A vertical rectangle is formed by the figures on the right, whereas a horizontal block is formed by the ones on the left. In addition to their attire, the two sides are also separated by Christ’s hand, which serves as a symbol. Some of the figures that appear in The Calling of Saint Matthew are close to, if not exact replicas of, those who appear in other works, such as Cardshaps. It appears that the scale of this painting presented difficulties for Caravaggio, and as a result, he utilized it to develop a method for painting from life huge, sophisticated multi-figure compositions from life.

Caravaggio’s method was replicated by a large number of other artists who followed in his footsteps.

Coloring and texture: Caravaggio brings this painting to life with vibrant colors, striking contrasts of reds, golds, and greens, as well as velvets and soft fur in a variety of sizes and textures. In addition, he contrasts motions and facial expressions.

The Calling of Saint Matthew is a demonstration of Caravaggio’s ability to depict biblical situations more vividly and in real time, as if they were taking place right in front of the viewer’s eyes. The artist was not attempting to create a representational realism, but rather was concentrating on the actual truth of this specific situation. The artist drew inspiration from his previous genre characters while producing this picture, which resulted in Saint Matthew and his buddies being shown as approachable individuals with whom people could identify and sympathize.

  1. In light of the fact that Henry IV, heir to St Louis, having just lately converted to the faith of his forefathers, the Calling of Saint Matthew was particularly fitting for both the location and the period.
  2. In the words of a contemporary reviewer, “Using a concentrated light source from above, without reflections, as if in a room with a window and walls painted black, is one of the distinguishing characteristics of this school’s lighting design.
  3. His forceful and occasionally stunning naturalism was rejected by patrons on occasion because it was deemed improper, although this exact reality was in keeping with Counter Reformation ideals of spirituality at the time.
  4. Rather of following the standards established by artists from the previous century, Caravaggio developed a passion for realism, and his emotional directness was unrivaled in the history of painting.
  5. Observing the development of his style from his earliest works to his final paintings is like reading a biography of the artist.
  6. His techniques and style were imitated and adopted by new painters over the twentieth century.
  7. Baroque art started in Italy, and its pioneers included renowned painters such as Michelangelo and Tintoretto, as well as other notable figures.

In addition to the Roman Catholic Church and the aristocracy, which fostered the development of this art genre since it was seen as a method of exhibiting wealth and power, the aristocracy also promoted the success of this art genre.

Due to a flood of artworks from northern Europe, the artist was exposed to the creative changes of the Counter-Reformation at the end of the 16th century, as well as a new interest in scientific naturalism that was blossoming in northern Italy at the time.

Italian Baroque art was not very different from Italian Renaissance painting, except that the color pallet was richer and deeper, and the topic of religion was more prominent throughout this period.

Bernard Berenson agreed, saying, “With the exception of Michelangelo, no other Italian painter has had such a profound impact on history.” Please see the recommended reading list below if you would want to learn more about Caravaggio and his artwork.

Caravaggio: The master has been exposed.


Freedberg’s book, Circa 1600: A Revolution in the Style of Italian Painting, is available online.

Walter Friedlander is a writer who lives in New York City.

Schocken Books published their first edition in 1969 in New York.

The Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, Pennsylvania, 1995.


Hinks, R.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio: His life, his legend, and his works (Michaelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio: His life, his legend, and his works).

Helen Langdon is a writer who lives in the United Kingdom.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1999.

Caravaggio’s biographies are available online.

Pallas Athene Publishers, London, 2005. Alfred Moir’s obituary. Caravaggio. H. N. Abrams Publishing Company, New York, 1989. John Varriano is the author of this work. Caravaggio’s painting is characterized by realism. Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, Pennsylvania, 2006. Artble

View Page: Shedding Light on Caravaggio

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF CHAPELSThe Calling of St. Matthew, The Martyrdom of St. Matthew and St. Matthew and the Angel are all situated in the dimly lit Contarelli Chapel.To see these paintings, the viewer had to make an effort to go directly to the Chapel in able to discern the specific details and subject matter of each painting.The Calling of Saint Matthew and The Martyrdom of St. Matthew appear on the lateral walls of the chapel, while St. Matthew and the Angel is placed in the middle of the two paintings as the altarpiece. In the Cerasi Chapel, The Conversion of St. Paul and The Crucifixion of St. Peter occupy the lateral walls.This Chapel is also dark, again requiring the observer to physically walk over to the painting in order to properly view them.It is also important to note that Caravaggio took into account that these paintings were to be located on the lateral walls.As a result, he painted them to be seen from an angle, not from straight ahead.He also created diagonals in these paintings toward the altar of the Chapel, drawing the viewers attention from his paintings to the altar.CARAVAGGIO’S SUBJECT MATTER AND TECHNIQUEThe commission for the Contarelli Chapel works marks the beginning of Caravaggio’s religious paintings, and continued not only with the Cerasi Chapel paintings, but to Caravaggio’s death.Each one exemplified his new innovative techniques of chiascuro and tenebrism.Chiascuro is an Italian word designating the contrast of dark and light in a painting, creating spatial depth and volumetric forms through slight gradations in the intensity of light and shadow.Tenebrism is a term signifying the use of strong chiascuro and artificially illuminated areas to create a dramatic contrast of light and dark in a painting.Along with the use of chaiscuro and tenebrism, Caravaggio’s paintings showed a new religious intensity and psychology.His religious scenes make devotion more human and accessible to the worshiper.To create a more emotional appeal, he used dark colors to create his forms instead of the soft tints of earlier painters in order to convey the realness and flesh and blood of the his figures.All of these characteristics, as well as symbolism and carefully planned composition, all emerge in Caravaggio’s paintings in the Contarelli Chapel and the Cerasi Chapel.THE CALLING OF ST. MATTHEWIn The Calling of St. Matthew, the background is dark, creating a dramatic highlight of the figures in the painting from an outside light.The outside light is from an unknown source and falls more directly on the figure of St. Matthew.Christ and St. Peter are standing on the right side of the painting.Christ has his arm stretched outward toward Saint Matthew, his hand in a pointing gesture that perfectly imitates the pointing gesture painted by Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling.The beam of light leads the viewer’s eye from the figure of Christ to St. Matthew.St. Matthew repeats the pointing gesture of Christ questioningly at himself, with an expression of shock clearly shown on his face.Caravaggio chose to paint this scene when St. Matthew is in-between is new life as an Apostle and his old life as a tax collector.This juxtaposition can be seen by the fact that his other hand is fondling a pile of gold at his side, and there is even a coin stuck in his hat.This represents his mindset:half of his mind is occupied by the sin of his life centered around money and the other half of his mind, shown by his surprised gesture and his focus on Christ with the light highlighting him, is turned toward the salvation from Christ.This theme of sin versus salvation is further conveyed by the composition of the other figures in the piece, especially with the figures arranged around St. Matthew.The two figures on his right notice the Christ and are looking into the light away from the money on the table.They have a chance to be saved.On the left of St. Matthew, the figures are concentrating so much on the money, they do not see the light, and thus miss salvation.The old man standing, leaning hunched over further shows this through his use of spectacles.The use of spectacles in paintings was a device used to signify short-sightedness.In this painting, the short-sightedness is due to money, and the man cannot see past mortal richness to reach eternal enlightenment.Another feature of this painting is the comparison between Christ and St. Peter, and St. Matthew and his cohorts around the table.St. Matthew and his friends are dressed in bright modern clothes.This places them in a certain time frame compared to the dark robes of Christ and St. Peter, which humble and somber, are almost timeless.The men around the table are also wearing shoes unlike the barefoot Christ and St. Peter.It also shows the importance of material goods to the men at the table instead of the humble and divine focus of Christ and St. Peter. The placement of St. Peter is also important in this painting.There is uncertainty whether St. Peter was added in later, or was meant to appear in the painting from the beginning, which has also sparked several theories about his positioning. One is that he was placed there to appease the instructions given to him by the patron to have Christ and his followers in the painting.Another theory is that St. Peter is placed in front of Christ in order to make the figure of Christ more obscure.The last theory of the position of St. Peter is that he is placed in-between the figure of Christ and viewer to signify that to reach salvation and Christ, the viewer must first go through the church, which is represented by St. Peter. The surroundings of the painting also hold meaning as well as controversy.The window above Christ has a frame in the shape of a cross, which is well placed symbolism for the religious painting.Behind the men around the table, on the left side of the painting, there is a dark strip of paint.This could be the corner of a building, showing that the men are actually outside of Roman Palace, and not in the interior of a building.Another marker of whether the scene takes place inside or outside is that the window has a shutter that opens towards the viewer. These make it seem as though the scene is taking place outside.Others believe that it is an interior due to the fact that the men are gathered around a table, and the light from outside of the painting is shining into the darkness of the room.No one knows the correct interpretation. One last key features of this painting is the technique in which the figures are painted.The colors used by Caravaggio create voluminous figures that seem to invade the viewer’s space, especially when the light falls on them.It is also interesting to note that the figure of Christ seems to be striding forward, yet his feet are pointing toward the viewer.ST. MATTHEW AND THE ANGELSimilar to The Calling of St. Matthew, the background of St. Matthew and the Angel is dark.The figures of St. Matthew and the Angel are highlighted with a light from an unknown source, again creating a more dramatic effect.The subject of the painting is St. Matthew, in a moment of inspiration from the angel above him, writing his part of the Gospel.Since the Gospel is one of St. Matthew’s greatest achievements, it is placed in the most important place as the altarpiece. In a moment of inspiration, St. Matthew is sitting on the edge of his bench.The bench itself is almost falling of the edge of the painting into the viewer’s space.St. Matthew is deep in thought as he writes with the angel above him, ticking off the genealogy of Christ on his fingers.Both figures are fully swathed with drapery.The figure of St. Matthew himself is that of a mature philosopher.Unlike the first version, this version of St. Matthew is more similar to Caravaggio’s other portrayals of the saint. The composition of the painting is vertical.The viewer is drawn from the angel above and then down to St. Matthew writing the Gospel.The exact position of the angel is unknown.Although the angel looks as though he is coming out toward the painting, and thus closer to the viewer than St. Matthew, St. Matthew is actually turning away from the viewer to look at the angel.This gives the impression that the angel is on the other side of St. Matthew. The position of the angel above St. Matthew exhibits the hierarchical relationship between the angel and St. Matthew.The true divinity of the relationship is shown by the tilt of the angel’s head toward St. Matthew and the tilt of St. Matthew’s head toward the angel.Both are fully involved in this transcendental moment.It has also been hypothesized that Caravaggio painted the figure of the angel based off of theater actors who hang from wires.THE MARTYRDOM OF ST. MATTHEWAfter stopping work on the first version of this piece due to difficulty in painting his first large scale work with multiple figures (the original can be seen underneath through the use of x-ray technology), Caravaggio painted The Calling of St. Matthew and then successfully continued work on The Martyrdom of St. Matthew.The subject of this piece is the execution of St. Matthew in the temple he converted into a Catholic Church.Continuing the use of a dark atmosphere with a light from an unknown source focusing on the main subject of the piece, Caravaggio created dramatic effects with light as well as using the light to make his figures appear to be in three dimensions.The main focus of the painting is on St. Matthew, laying helplessly on his back with the half nude executioner standing above him with his sword raised.Caravaggio chose to portray the exact moment before St. Matthew’s death, and perhaps showing the moment when the executioner pauses briefly before swiftly bringing the blade upon St. Matthew.St. Matthew is elevated off the ground on steps, and the columns in the back of the scene can barely be discerned.The figure of St. Matthew has his hand raised in defense and is also wounded.The curve of the angel over St. Matthew’s head is juxtaposed with the sharpness of the executioner.Here, Caravaggio creates three lines of movement that draw the attention of the viewer not only to the main action of the piece, but also to a cross.The three lines of movement are from the arm of St. Matthew, the sword of the executioner, and the palm of the martyr being lowered by an angel on a cloud.It is interesting to note here that the angel is precariously lowering the palm, the symbol of a martyr, on a cloud due to the fact that the angel cannot yet fly. Around the executioner and St. Matthew chaos is ensuing among those in the presence of this murder.These people, with terrorized expressions, are fleeing the scene.The light falls on random parts of these people, for instance part of a hand, adding confusion to the piece and emotionally drawing the viewer into the subject matter. This helps to frame the focus on the murder.The murder is further framed by the use of half nudes in the bottom corners.It has been suggested that these were men about to be baptized by St. Matthew, before his murder, and that, if the painting were to be extended below, therea pool of water present. In the back of the painting, there are modern figures dressed in contemporary clothing as well as a self-portrait of Caravaggio.The modern figures serve to remind the viewer to remember the sacrifices made by those in the past, and that they should continue to observe these sacrifices in the present. The man in the back can be identified as the self-portrait of Caravaggio by other self-portraits as well as the dark hair, big nostrils, and arching thick eyebrows.Although the exact reason Caravaggio placed himself in this work is unknown, it has been remarked that he is King Herticus in the painting, and thus marking the beginning of his fatalistic and tragic portrayal of his own self image.The placement of a self-portrait in this painting could also be taken from the Renaissance artists, for whom it was common to paint their self-portrait in their paintings as their signature.This could be the influence of Raphael, who did practice this type of signature in his paintings.Since the x-rays taken from the first attempt of this painting shows that Caravaggio must have studied some of Raphael’s work due to the similar technique used, it is very likely that Caravaggio copied this device.THE CONVERSION OF ST. PAULCaravaggio painted a first version of The Conversion of St. Paul, but, for reasons that remain unclear, he painted also second version of it.The first version of this piece is not only in an extremely different style, but the portrayal of the subject and figures in the piece are completely different in the two versions.In the second version, the one that now hangs in the Cesari Chapel, the subject is of St. Paul as he is receiving the light of God after being thrown off his horse.The figures in this painting are kept to a minimum.Only St. Paul, his horse, and the groom of the horse are present.This is meant to keep the focus on St. Paul, as well as to convey the extremely personal and intimate moment that St. Paul is experiencing.His arms are stretched upwards, receiving the light of God, in a position of helplessness on his back.This pose is reminiscent of the pose of St. Matthew in The Martyrdom of St. Matthew.Also, as is characteristic of Caravaggio’s paintings, the background is very dark despite the fact that the scene is recorded as taking place mid-day.The only source of light is that from God. For the first time in the depiction of this scene, Caravaggio paints the light of God with no figural personification.This helps to give the painting a sense of divinity and heightens the highlighting of the ecstasy exhibited by St. Paul. Caravaggio has chosen to show the scene without any action.The horse above him is calm, showing very little movement.In fact, this painting has almost no movement at all. The only other movement besides the movement shown by the horse is the up-stretched arms of St. Paul.The use of the horse in this painting could be a device used by Renaissance artists to help fill up the space in the painting as well as frame the main focus of the painting.The enormous rump of the horse helps to lead the viewer down onto the figure of St. Paul. The expression on St. Paul’s face is one of both ecstasy and divine acceptance.His eyes are closed, signifying both the physical blindness he will experience for the next three days, as well as his previous spiritual blindness to the enlightened of God.The figure of St. Paul is also that of a young man with no distinguishing features.He was a great sinner,he persecuted the Christians, yet by the mercy and power of God, he has been chosen and converted to the path of enlightenment. This gives hope to even the greatest sinner that he too can be forgiven by God if he leaves his sinning for the path of enlightenment. On the edges of the light that is shining down on St. Paul, Caravaggio painted little white dots on the edges so that they will sparkle in the presence of real light, heightening the divinity of the light and creating a more emotional response from the viewer.The enlightened of St. Paul is juxtaposed with the figure of the groom.Although this figure does have a small amount of light on him, it is clear from his stance and position in that painting that although he is lighted, he is not enlightened.The purpose of this painting is to show through the divine intervention of God on the sinner Saul, anyone can be saved and enlightened through the His divine will.THE CRUCIFIXION OF ST. PETERIn contrast to the inaction of The Conversion of St. Paul, The Crucifixion of St. Peter is shown in the middle of movement.Following the example of Michelangelo, Caravaggio depicts this scene as the cross is being raised.He paid special attention to the way in which he portrays this movement, attempting to make it look realistic.It is possible that he used models in order to do this, which is can be seen by the straining muscles of the men lifting the cross.For example, one of the worker’s bulging veins and the redness of his hand is depicted as a direct result of raising the cross.Another executioner exhibits a bulge of flesh where his jacket cuts his waist as he pulls the rope. As is typical in Caravaggio paintings, the background is dark, with a source of light falling on the main subject, which is St. Peter.The executioners around him are not lit at all.Instead they serve as an unattached physical mechanism raising the cross and pushing St. Peter closer to his death.They also help to frame the painting, drawing the viewer’s attention to the figure of St. Peter.The large rear end and dirty bare feet of the executioner on the left help to draw in the attention of the viewer, since the Cerasi Chapel is dark, and once the viewer is close to the painting, draw his attention to St. Peter. The figure of St. Peter is made more dramatic by the light shining down on him.He is being crucified upside down (he claims he is not honorable enough to die in the same way as Christ), yet shows extreme calmness and serenity.He looks down, toward the altar of the chapel.St. Peter himself is portrayed with monumental massiveness, even for his old age.He is accepting of his death, and the scene, without an audience, releases an intimate vibe, appealing to emotions of the viewer and inviting them to participate in the extreme faith in the salvation of God shown by St. Peter.The main theme of this painting is faith, which can also be seen by the symbolism of the rock placed under St. Peter, signifying St. Peter as the rock of faith with which the church was founded. Caravaggio also used an illusionism in this painting.Although it looks as though St. Peter is being crucified on an upside-down cross, he is actually only attached to one board.There is no cross beam.Instead, his left arm is stretched along the same board as his body.
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Chiaroscuro – What It Means, How to Use It and Master Painting Examples

It is the use of light and dark to create the appearance of three-dimensional volume on a flat surface that is referred to as Chiaroscuro. chiaro means bright or clear, while scuro means dark or obscure in Italian, hence the word literally means “light-dark.” Alternatively, the phrase is used in a more restricted meaning to describe artworks that exhibit a stark contrast between light and dark, such as the painting below. Michelangelo Saint Jerome Writing by Merisi De Caravaggio, 1607, by Merisi De Caravaggio This technique may be traced back to the work of Greek artist Apollodorus Skiagraphos, who utilized hatched shadows to create the illusion of depth in his paintings.

Stag Hunt Mosaic, c.300 BCE, created by Gnosis

Chiaroscuro During the Renaissance

Renaissance artists adopted and improved on earlier shading methods as a result of the fascination in all things classical that arose in the 15th and 16th century. Leonardo da Vinci was the first Renaissance master to refine and perfect existing shading methods in order to obtain a real chiaroscuro effect. Da Vinci infused life and depth into his drawings by beginning with the darks on colored paper, progressing to the lighter tones, and then adding the highlights, which were commonly done with white gouache or chalk, as shown below.

  • Take note of the precise portrayal of the values as they progress from dark to light.
  • Da Vinci drew his sketches on brown-tinted paper with charcoal or black chalk, and then painted them.
  • He utilized white chalk to draw attention to important elements of the picture, such as the child’s face and the faces of the other subjects.
  • Renaissance painters were fascinated by the idea of replicating the reality that they were surrounded by.
  • However, an equally significant discovery occurred during this time period: the advantages of using oil paint.
  • Because of its rapid drying period, the medium is difficult to mix, and because of its opacity, it is not suitable for layering.
  • Because of its delayed drying period, as well as its translucence, it is feasible to apply thin layers of paint on a surface (known as glazing).
  • In his paintings, the 17th-century Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio carried chiaroscuro to its logical conclusion, frequently blacking out big sections of the backdrop and vividly lighting massive foreground subjects.
  • Luminous sources emanate from the right side of the painting in the artwork below, illuminating the subjects on each side of the canvas.
  • It is the light that draws your attention to the people who are seated at the table.
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A term used to describe the use of vast expanses of black backdrop coupled with highly lighted objects that is especially linked with Caravaggio’s work is “caravaggism.” This form of chiaroscuro is sometimes referred to as istenebrism, which originates from the Italian termtenebroso, which means dark, gloomy, or mysterious in English.

  • As light shines on David from the left side of the picture, he takes on a brilliant aspect in the painting above.
  • Also take note of how the sections of David that are in shadow mix in with the black background in a subtle manner.
  • More direct sunlight shines on Goliath, revealing his shadows, wrinkled face, and sunken eyes with a harshness that contrasts with his otherwise dark appearance.
  • As a result of Caravaggio’s tenebrism’s widespread popularity, a large number of eager painters attempted to emulate his style.
  • To imitate three-dimensional volumes, to call attention to certain regions of the painting, and to create a feeling of drama, the Caravaggisti employed a striking mix of dark and light in their paintings.
  • The subject, Judith, extends her hand to hide the light that comes in from the left side of the picture.
  • Artemisia Gentileschi’s painting, Judith with Her Maidservant, was painted around 1625.
  • Rembrandt van Rijn, the Dutch great painter, is famed for his deft use of the chiaroscuro technique in his paintings.
  • In contrast to many previous portraits, Rembrandt’s face is mostly hidden in darkness, with just one side of his face slightly illuminated by the light.
  • ‘Self Portrait as a Young Man’ by Rembrandt, c.
  • In addition to Rembrandt, Gerard van Honthorst was a Dutch master who experimented with chiaroscuro.

A more delicate light is cast on the other figures, with the guy in backdrop only just beginning to emerge from the shadows of the photograph. The Adoration of the Child by Gerard van Honthorst was painted around 1620.

Chiaroscuro by Candlelight

The French artist Georges de La Tour frequently utilized candles as the primary source of illumination for his works. A reclining Mary Magdalene is illuminated in the image below, which was painted with candlelight bouncing off a mirror. The Penitent Magdalene was painted by Georges de La Tour between 1625 and 1650. You can feel the warmth of the candlelight emanating from this picture. The paper in the subject’s hand has a golden sheen to it, almost like polished gold. Readings from Saint Jerome by Georges de La Tour There are a plethora of other artists that have used chiaroscuro in innovative and sophisticated ways.

An orrery (a mechanical model of the solar system) is lighted by an oil lamp, which is positioned in the middle of the model to symbolize the sun, in the artwork below.

Sir Joshua Reynolds, an English painter who lived in the eighteenth century, employed chiaroscuro to give his portraits a regal appearance.

Using Caravaggio’s more dramatic tenebrism to express the stress and heightened emotion connected with contemporary combat, Francesco Goya developed his own style of painting.

  • In order to achieve excellent chiaroscuro, shading methods like as hatching, shading with parallel lines, and layering tones of the same hue are employed. When creating tonal gradations, it is normally more successful to work from dark to bright
  • However, there are exceptions. If you want to create greater drama, you might want to try employing only one powerful light source. Because our eyes are naturally drawn to the brightest sections of a painting, the lightest regions are usually the focus points of the picture. The amount of contrast between light and dark in a painting contributes to the overall atmosphere of the artwork. To generate a strong feeling of drama, tenebrism, which refers to very great contrasts between the dark and bright regions of a picture, can be utilized in conjunction with other techniques. It is possible to enhance the effects of chiaroscuro by making compositional decisions, such as placing the subjects prominently in the foreground or center of the composition.

(If you’re interested in learning more about color theory, please download my freeColor Theory Cheat Sheet.) Please accept my gratitude for taking the time to read this post. Thank you very much! Please feel free to share this with your friends. Visit myPaintingAcademycourse if you want to learn more about painting techniques. Best of luck with your artwork! Dan ScottDraw Paint Academy is a drawing and painting school founded by Dan Scott.

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