Master of Light

I can’t believe its been a week. One week ago I saw a spectacular exhibition of Caravaggio’s works in Rome. It was at the Scuderie del Quirinale, organized to celebrate the 400th anniversary of his death. The exhibit was entirely Caravaggio. I was in heaven! He’s my favorite artist (together with Gustav Klimt). The way Caravaggio plays with light and shadow is just fantastic.

I aspire to be as fantastic as he, in whatever media I end up pursuing. His paintings are like screen shots from a movie—a moment caught eternally in oil. I stared at I Bari for what felt like hours, admiring the delicate brocades, feathering and colors. To see one of my favorite paintings, mere feet from my nose—outstanding.

Though seeing I Bari in person was astounding, the painting I found most beautiful was an arresting painting of John the Baptist. He’s caught in painstaking introspection, or perhaps a nap in the sun. The light is, characteristically, dramatic; his body glows whilst his face remains shadowed.

The light truly makes the mood of the painting. My two favorite paintings, I Bari (The Cardsharps) and San Giovanni Battista (St John the Baptist), illustrate this. I Bari is bathed in light. You can clearly make out the individual characters’ faces, their expressions, their hands. Everything is perfectly clear. As for San Giovanni Battista, this picture is dark, obscure, contemplative. It draws you in, makes you wonder, think. I was unfamiliar with this work, but seeing it in front of me—a painting never moved me so much. St. John looks so lifelike, it’s astonishing.

Leaving the exhibit broke my heart. I wanted to stay for hours more, but stomachs growled and food a-waited. I don’t think I shall ever forget this. Seeing one work by Caravaggio is enough to make you stop and admire, but nearly 30 of his works, without other artists’ interruption? Truly a breathtaking experience.

2 thoughts on “Master of Light

  1. I spent a month in Firenze in 1974 with a friend who was doing graduate study at the Bibliotequa (sp)…..she taugh me a great deal about Dante. While you are in Italy try to take a trip to Ravenna there is a lot about Dante in that town where he is buried. Love, Aunt Alisanne

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  2. I like da Vinci’s John the Baptist for his use of Chiaroscuro, which Caravaggio loved, but I’m afraid that I’m not as familiar with his work.

    I only took a few art related classes in college (outside of literature of course), so I am no expert by any stretch of the imagination.

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