Caravaggio: Calling of Saint Matthew

Another one of Caravaggio’s paintings is the Calling of Saint Matthew.

Caravaggio, Calling of Saint Matthew, 1597-1601

Light, which Caravaggio employs to increase the drama in his paintings, plays even more of a pivotal role in the Calling of Saint Matthew. A piercing ray of light illuminates the dark scene and draw attention the key figures in the painting, Christ and Saint Matthew (the beam of light starts above Christ and shines on Saint Matthew’s face).

The setting, a dark plain wall, is relatively mundane. Christ, standing in dark shadows, with only his head and neck in clear view, goes almost unnoticed. The only attribute that indicates that his is Christ is the halo about his head in the dark. Christ points to Levi, the future Saint Matthew (Christ’s hand as he points is reminiscent of God’s hand in Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel, especially the position and form of his wrist and fingers). In this scene, Christ summons Levi, a tax collector, to a much higher calling. Levi is very surprised. Astonished, he points to himself. His face is illuminated by the beam of light that stems from the window, above Christ’s head.

Once again, Caravaggio used light to enhance the drama and suspense of the precise moment depicted in his painting. Below is another one of Caravaggio’s paintings, Entombment, which also uses tenebrism.

Caravaggio, Entombment, 1603

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