On a day off this past week I was lucky to come across the Scottish National Gallery’s exhibition, Beyond Caravaggio. As Edinburgh is often at the heart of Scotland’s creative body, many private and public collectors generously shared four major works from Caravaggio himself, as well as an impressive number of those created by artists during the height of his influence. Artemisia Gentileschi, Adam de Roster, and Georges de la Tour just being a few names of whom works are now up for viewing until September twenty-fourth.
Caravaggio is infamously known for having been a violent person – as he reportedly would beat those who he suspected were copying his art. This brutality comes across in his pieces, as he often would depict the most powerful and vicious images pertaining to the life of Christ. Being a devout Catholic himself, his paintings make it clear the level of knowledge he obtained through his religion, even using the element of light – something so common throughout the Bible – as a technique he would become famous for and associated with.
Possibly the most impressive piece on display at the Scottish National Gallery is ‘The Taking of Christ’, in which Caravaggio uses the light from a lantern to highlight the distance between Jesus and Judas, as Judas goes to give his final and betraying kiss. Albeit a small detail, this is where the tension builds in the piece, as the viewer is not given any final conclusion.
‘All works, no matter what or by whom painted, are nothing but childish trifles unless they are made and painted from life.’
Caravaggio’s detail and seemingly real adaptation of the people within his paintings came from his use of live models. Arresting for the time, this allowed him to create pieces that looked back at the viewer, thus pulling them in to the moment itself.
‘Cupid as Victor’ is a piece that seals Caravaggio’s reputation as a provocative and daunting artist, as he portrays what looks as a twelve-year-old boy Cupid standing over a mess of what could be seen as his “toys”. His casual expression works as to say that love trumps all, seeing as these “toys” seem to represent art, politics, war, and religion. However, the most daunting aspect of this piece is undoubtedly the boy’s position, as he stand full-front and fully naked in his laissez-faire atmosphere.
Edinburgh is a city spoiled for choice as far as art, culture, literature, and performance goes. It is not an understatement to say that spending a month going to museums, galleries, and shows would still not be enough time. Yet, the Beyond Caravaggio exhibition is something both special and unique, as the pieces seem to bring themselves out of the frame and into the viewers personal space. Being both uncomfortable and mesmerising, seeing Caravaggio’s work in person comes as such a privilege – and one the I will be going back to again and again.
**This post is in no way sponsored or affiliated with the Scottish National Gallery or their exhibition Beyond Caravaggio – I just thought it was mad cool.**