Caravaggio Remembered!

Chiaroscuro with a modern bent

Most of the art created during the Renaissance was for patrons usually associated with the church. Michelangelo, Titian, and Leonardo Da Vinci all created some of their greatest works for the church. Think of the Sistine Chapel, Titian's Salome or The Last Supper of Da Vinci all created to illustrate the Biblical stories and truths to an illiterate world. The artist’s work I most admire from this period is Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio because of his revolutionary use of light and the rustic reality of his subjects. Caravaggio showed the gritty real people of his time portrayed in the environment of ordinary citizens. Modern art, for the most part, has left the church and the great themes of the Bible behind. This series of photographs is inspired by the Renaissance masters, in particular Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio. The series draws inspiration from his use of strong contrast of light and dark, known as chiaroscuro, to create a modern interpretation of the classic Bible stories. We followed Caravaggio’s example of using contemporary settings, dress, and situations making the historic stories of the Bible relatable to a modern audience. He used friends, drinking buddies, and artistic associates. Our subject choices avoided the drinking buddies in favor of fellow church goers still using friends, artistic associates and family. The look from clothing to setting is modern. The clothing is contemporary, everything from blue jeans to hoodies. All done to lure the viewer into the image to explore the core truths of the stories.

Supper at Emmaus
Supper at Emmaus
Caravaggio was commissioned by the Mattei family in January of 1602 to create 'A painting of our Lord breaking bread'. The result was his first Supper at Emmaus now in the National Gallery in London. It illustrates Luke 24 at the moment the two disciples are revealed the true identity of Jesus. The painting was met with mixed reviews criticizing the poverty of the subjects, the youthful and beardless Jesus, the environment they are in, and decaying fruit. All of these were not Caravaggio's thoughtless literalism, as expressed by Giovanni Bellori in The Life of Caravaggio, but carefully crafted symbolism. Caravaggio's use of peasants and working class subjects was often a point of contention with his critics. The subjects were his friends and acquaintances from the streets, taverns, and brothels of Rome. His choice of a beardless Jesus is reputed to be inspired by Mark 16:12, "After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking along on their way to the country." The characters in the painting, besides Jesus, are the two unnamed disciples seated at the table and the inn keeper looking on perhaps wondering if he will get paid for the meal. The two disciples are portrayed at the moment Jesus' identity is reveled.

Contact Stephen Cook