Art Analysis of the Calling of Saint Mathew

Published: 2021-07-06 06:21:17
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Caravaggio is known for his artistic mastery and highly realistic styles showing the religious art of Rome and Naples. He was one of the influential artists of his time, but the 17th century was full of violence. Caravaggio learned painting from Simone Peterzano in Milan and Rome around 1592 several years after he was orphaned by plague in 1584 (Hvalvik 9). He then rapidly acquired patrons throughout his life as an artist and worked in close consultation with Contarelli Chapel in San Luigi dei Francesi. The drawer portrayed another picture at the same time. The image was entitled The Martyrdom of St. Mathew (Hvalvik 9). Both of these works were successful, and several other successful drawings followed later on. The paintings mostly depicted religious events and symbols.The calling of St. Mathew portrays an instant when Jesus Christ called Mathew and told him to leave all and follow him. Cardinal Matthew Contarelli commissioned this picture, provided the needed resources to help decorate it, and provided the guidelines for imprinting the name St. Mathew. Although painter Cavaliere d’Arpino had previously painted the ceilings of the wall of the chapel from where this picture was taken, he was unable to do the work because he was occupied with the papal job (Culler 34). For this reason, Caravaggio secured Del Monte to complete the painting of the ceiling.The painting is a story describing when Jesus went to the house where Mathew was seated and asked him to follow him. This instant was the beginning of the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the storyline goes in the Bible, Mathew followed Jesus. In the painting, Christ is on the right side near Peter, and he points to Levi (Culler 35). The painting depicts Levi, the tax collector, as a bearded man wearing a beret. The hands pointing to Levi, who is on the left side, draw the viewers’ attention to him. This aspect makes him conspicuous in the painting. In addition, the intensity of the light that shines on him is a little higher than that of the rest.When carefully examined, this painting depicts a session when Jesus Christ is preaching, and his listeners are in awe as they listen to the reviving words of their master. From the biblical stories that Jesus told, people were drawn to his manner of preaching and the power of his words. According to Hvalvik, this description can explain the attention that Levi gives to Jesus, the man next to Peter (9). In just a few seconds, Mathew will rise, become a disciple of Jesus, and follow Jesus. Caravaggio masterfully represents Levi’s moment of uncertainty and juxtaposes it with the high certainty of Jesus Christ. The kingdom of Christ is to last forever.To summarize, the calling of St. Mathew portrays an instant when Jesus Christ called Mathew and told him to leave all and follow him. Cardinal Matthew Contarelli commissioned this picture, provided the needed resources to help decorate it, and provided the guidelines for imprinting the name St. Mathew. Although painter Cavaliere d’Arpino had previously decorated the ceilings of the wall of the chapel from where this picture was taken, he was unable to do the work because he was occupied with the papal job. For this reason, Caravaggio secured Del Monte to complete the painting of the ceiling.Works CitedCuller, Matthew B. Self-reference in Caravaggio’s “Calling of St. Matthew”. Diss. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2007.Hvalvik, Reidar. “Light from the Outside.” New Caravaggio, 2014, pp. 9. 

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