Beyond Caravaggio

Following on from seeing The Seven Acts of Mercy at the RSC, I thought I had better get to the NG before this exhibition ended, especially as I had read Waldemar Januszczak’s review and loved it!

I was very much looking forward to seeing Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus and was not disappointed:

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 'The Supper at Emmaus’, 1601

The theatrical nature of this is so appealing.  The fruit bowl is about to fall off the table and you want to lean in to, quietly, push it back.  The hand  and elbow of the the two apostle force their way into our space.  We too are joining in with the realisation of who this man seated at the table really is.  The poor innkeeper is the only one not in on this.

Think this quote from Waldemar is quite apt, especially for this painting:

The lighting, the realism, the sense of overcrowding seek to make a distant religious event feel as if it is happening before you. A good word for the effect would be “cinematic”. Not just any cinematic moment, but that especially tangible one when Stanislavski and his method pushed out the Gables and the Coopers and pushed in the Brandos and the Deans.

Disappointing, naturally, that there were only a few Caravaggio’s – they don’t travel well, obviously but what was interesting was the way he had influenced others.

Two standout pieces for me – Artemesia Gentilischi’s Susannah and the Elders and Giovanni Antonio Galli’s Christ Displaying his Wounds.

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Artemesia’s close cropping makes us complicit in her nakedness and you long to be able to pull the dress around her to protect her from the lecherous elders who wish to compromise her.  Given the history behind Artemesia’s own rape, we can see why she is angry and wishes to show everyone that this is not an acceptable way to treat a respectable woman.  Galli’s Christ is confrontational, to say the least! His expression demands you answer him and the way in which Galli handles the paint is incredible.  This Christ is coming to get you if you doubt who he is!

Liked this so much, I bought the catalogue!


Caravaggio at the RSC

Last week of term and I should have been exhausted, only fit for my bed. Instead, I went off to The Swan Theatre in Stratford to see a new play, The Seven Act of Mercy.

Switching between Naples in 1606, and Bootle in 2016, Caravaggio’s painting linked the social inequalities of both the 17th and 21st Centuries. 

The set was minimalistic and this was an advantage because a huge projection screen doubled as Caravaggio’s canvas, and you watched as Caravaggio worked. When other paintings were referenced, they too would appear. 

The play was thought-provoking and brilliantly acted. Well worth a visit!