Caravaggio was a Baroque painter born 1571 in Milan, Italy. Having trained under another phenomenal artist Titian (Tiziano Vecelli), his style developed well under the Catholic church’s high demands for artists in the 1700’s. The figures of his works were more realistic of which he blended a radical type of chiaroscuro, tenebrism where light and dark shift theatrically between each other for increased dramatic effect. He has so many famous artworks ranging from his Martyrdom of Saint Matthew, Judith Beheading Holofernes and David with the Head of Goliath and is considered one of the most influential artists of his time.
(Tenebrism example, A Man Singing by Candlelight, by Adam de Coster. 1625-1635)
I will get right to the point. I love almost all of Michelangelo Caravaggio’s paintings. Many of his works will show up in my posts, but for now I wanted to focus on one of his lesser known paintings. Caravaggio has a way of drawing out realism in his works. I viewed many of them personally when I went to the Bourgeois museum in Rome, Italy. Emotionally, his paintings sometimes overwhelmed me. I thought they were sad but also quite powerful.
Though I did not see this particular painting, it has stuck with me as one of my favorites. Why do I like this painting? Firstly, its intensity. It depicts a crucial moment in world history, during Jesus of Nazareth’s humiliation and torture. There is no way to handle this subject lightly. The three, technically four, figures involved vary in their roles. The two men besides Jesus, who are also featured in Caravaggio’s The Flagellation of Christ and Salome with the Head of John the Baptist in antagonistic roles, tie the Savior to the column. They are the type of men who would not see and recognize the severity of their actions. I say there are technically four figures because there is a hand in the far left corner which handed one of the men a whip. The question remains, “why is he out of frame?”.
Secondly, the tenebrism takes this painting onto a whole other plane from its predecessors. The stark contrast between the light and dark colors used effectively highlight important aspects in all the facial expressions, movements and features of those in the painting. I have seen other renditions of this scene but I believe it is through this painting where it is portrayed the best because Caravaggio deliberately drew us in with this technique.
Lastly, the figure of the Savior is very realistic and heart rending to me. There is a hint of resignation, sorrow and exhaustion etched into his face and I noticed that he is facing away from his torturers. I do not believe this is because he blamed them. I believe it was to spare them and others from seeing such pain. The most dynamic feeling that permeated this painting though was love. Take it as you will, but this is a beautiful painting and I wish that I had had the chance to see it in person. Unfortunately, it is located in the Musée des Beaux Arts, Rouen.