Saturday, January 1, 2011

Caravaggio by John T. Spike | Review

CaravaggioCaravaggio by John T. Spike

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This had very good illustrations, which you expect in a large "art book". The quality of these is one of the essential ingredients, and the color was pretty good.

I found myself concentrating on the illustrations rather than the text, The text did go into considerable detail about his symbolism.

There were some interesting differences from the Caravaggio book which I recently read and rated fairly low. (Caravaggio: A Passionate Life by Desmond Seward.)

This book contends that the Franciscan world view was not that pervasive in the counter reformation, and therefore the Caravaggian naturalism with its undercurrent of street emotion and underclass was not what the Counter Reformation had in mind about making the lives of the saints real. Using ordinary life was actually taken by many as irreverent.

The other volume, while conceding that Caravaggio had an unhealthy fixation on beheading, and was heck, a little mentally unstable, wanted to stress his orthodoxy in a way that made many of the contemporary criticism of his style incomprehensible. So in essence the two books take diametrically opposite positions as to whether his painting style was following though on the Vatican's contemporaneous positions on sacred art.

I also have to confess I learned something about the symbolism of the Supper at Emmaus.

Spike points out that the pose, and the beardlessness of Christ is an echo of the image in Michaelangelo's Last Judgement. The only real difference in the hands is that the right hand in thrusting toward the viewer. There is therefore a sense of judgement that overlays the scene, and, with that modification, also includes the spectator. The landlord or proprietor looks through him--he isn't there for him. The Disciples, on the other hand, react, are amazed.

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