Monday, September 16, 2013

Martyrdom of St. Matthew

During the Counter-Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church searched for religious art in order to counter the threat of Protestantism. In the 16th and 17th century there was many churches and palazzi built and there was a demand of paintings. Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio was an Italian artist which made his work well know by the elements in his paintings. He used the radical naturalism that combined close physical observation with a dramatic use of chiaroscuro is an element that Carvaggio used and is well known for. This technique in art gives a dramatic physical observation to the radical naturalism of the characters in the painting, who all show emotion. This is known as the style of tenebrism, the contrast of light to dark with little median value.

Martyrdom of St. Matthew, Caravaggio, 1599–1600, Oil on canvas
Dimensions 323 cm × 343 cm (127 in × 135 in)

The painting above, Martyrdom of St. Matthew, depicts the moment of the martyrdom of Saint Matthew the Evangelist, author of the Gospel of Matthew.Saint Matthew was killed, on the orders of the king of Ethiopia during the celebration of Mass at the altar. The king fancied his own niece, and had been rebuked by Matthew. The niece was a nun, and therefore living under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.In the painting the saint is about to be murdered by a soldier who was sent by the king. There is onlookers showing emotion to what is about to occur.

Today, the Contarelli Chapel in San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome contains the Martyrdom of St. Matthew, along with the other two paintings by Caravaggio on the subject of St. Matthew.

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