Caravaggio: inspired by writing

Posted by on Nov 3, 2015 in Discussion, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I heard a short story (not yet finished at a writing group) which centred on a Caravaggio (1571-1610) painting of The Beheading of St John. I was very pleased to be introduced to this painting though, of course, the subject matter is very shocking and the killing depicted in graphic detail. Sadly there are modern resonances and this gives it an particular edge. The depiction of the shocked bystander, said by some to be Herodias, is very lifelike and to me, represents us, horrified at the callous way the executioner goes about his task and the ghastly way the life of a good man is ended. It seems that Caravaggio was an aggressive man, difficult to get on with and violent and died at a young age (approximately 38 years old) as a result of the delayed complications of injuries sustained in a fight. It is astonishing to me what he accomplished in his lifetime particularly considering his erratic way of life and his need, periodically to be on the run from the law – at least once after committing murder.

Then there is the picture of Salome with the head of John the Baptist which I shall now rush to see at the National Gallery  He did seem to want to depict the more violent episodes in the Bible, like the beheading of Goliath and of Holofernes by Judith.

Once again it is interesting to see how an artist’s style changes, what he focuses on in the same story at different points in his career. Very pleased to be reminded to look at Caravaggios’s work again.

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