This morning we had a Caravaggio walk to start off our first morning back. It was really nice because we met up at 9.30—which is pretty late for us. We walked first to S. Agnostino’s Basilica where we viewed the Madonna of the Pilgrims (1604-06). Interesting to note, the model was a prostitute and her babe in arms. There was also Raffaello’s Prophet Isaiah as well.
I wrote my poem on the painting of Madonna of the Pilgrims.
From darkness comes light.
Fingers splayed holding ample flesh of shifting child.
Legs dangling, foot so close to the hand of one who entreats him.
Lines formed from child to follower, eye to eye, to sole of trodden foot.
Mothers gaze awry.
Perspective drawn so that we are too—only ever to gaze up upon him.
From darkness comes light.
Next we went just around the corner to Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi where Caravaggio has three pieces: The Calling of Saint Matthew, The Inspiration of Saint Matthew, and The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew.
These were amazing pieces showing his deftness of composition of motion, movement and light. One day when I get time, I want to overlay these paintings with circles and lines showing the perspective and motion in composition.
Finally we trekked out to the S. Maria del Popolo again to revisit the Crucifixion of Peter and the Conversion of Saul. Matt let us in on Caravaggio’s life a bit, explaining of how he ran from Rome (he killed a man—a friend of the Pope’s, and was found to be sodomizing young boys), then was fast-track knighted elsewhere only to be hunted again when he was found to have done something so vile it could not be written (and thus forever undocumented). The Borghese’ entreated the Pope to pardon Caravaggio because they were desperate to have him return to Rome and their patronage, and finally he received word that we was welcomed back. However somewhere north of Rome he disappeared and his body was never found. Remember that he would paint his pieces with consideration of where they would be shown in mind. This is what makes the pieces in S. Maria’s so intriguing, because the butt in your face, or the horses hindquarters towards alter are no mistake. He also liked to paint feet dirty, gritty and real, which was an often an issue for the Church’s taste. He had to repaint The Inspiration of Matthew because they wouldn’t accept the grit and grim of the first. Hence Matthew’s odd stature where he looks like he’s off balance and going to fall off the chair. Caravaggio didn’t hide bitterness well. (The horse’s hindquarters are facing the altar piece because he wanted to do the altar piece but they commissioned another artist instead.)