The small exhibition room is crammed with people, but I hardly need to scan the walls to know which painting belongs to Caravaggio. It’s mesmerising. The tall, lean youth sulks in his pose. I observe the muscular outline of his form accentuated by strong shadows. The soft folds of that cloak with its red hues, adding colour and statement to our character without overwhelming the viewer. The depiction of Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness, 1603-4, centres the room and you can’t draw your eyes away.
It’s not just the skillful use of light and shadows or the life-like portrayal of the figure that catches your attention. Caravaggio had the ability to breath energy into his compositions. They feel alive.
The Beyond Caravaggio exhibition at The National Gallery is filled with treat after treat for Caravaggio lovers, admirers and followers. Even those with limited exposure to the diversity of painting can appreciate his skill. The exhibition takes you on a journey of the artist’s influence in both subject matter and technique. From my own observation, some of Caravaggio’s followers came close to acquiring his skill, but none were able to capture the essence of the master himself.
In a recent trip to Rome, I had the opportunity to soak up more Caravaggio masterpieces, some of which I will share with you. The Contarelli Chapel of San Luigi dei Francesi is home to The Calling of Saint Matthew (left) and The Inspiration of Saint Matthew, 1602 (right).
The Cerasi Chapel of Santa Maria del Popolo shares with us the Crucifixion of Peter, 1601 (left) and the Conversion of Saul, 1601 (right).