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Caravaggio: On the way to Sicily

Posted by Suzanne on 31 May 2016



Splendour in side chapels

While spending last weekend in Rome, enroute to Sicily, I viewed once more some Caravaggio splendour found in the side chapels of three Roman churches only minutes from my hotel just off Piazza del Popolo.

The vibrant colours, the everyday realism of the subjects, the folds of soft fabrics, the glorious ‘light and shadow’ (Chiaroscuro) and the stories told are all spellbinding. 



Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo: Conversion of  Paul and The Crucifixion of St Peter

In the top left hand chapel of the church of Santa Maria del Popolo (on the edge of Piazza del Popolo) Caravaggio’s ‘The Conversion of Paul’ and ‘The Crucifixion of St Peter’ are dramatic and strong yet transfixing, enhanced by wonderful colours and light and shadows. 



Church of Sant'Agostino: Madonna of Loreto

The look of gratitude on the face of the peasant pilgrim woman as she kneels before the barefooted, serene Madonna and bouncing child in the  Madonna di Loreto in the Church of Sant’Agostino (not very far from the Pantheon) is moving.


When I left the Madonna of Loreto and walked through the cool interior of the church of Sant’Agostino I had to return to look once more at the soft fabrics, the light on the knee of the graceful barefooted Madonna, the sheerness of the wrap around her shoulders and her relaxed stance.



Church of San Luigi dei Francesi: Matthew's Calling; The Inspiration of St Matthew; and The Martyrdom of Matthew

The out stretched hand of the Christ figure in the ‘Calling of St Matthew’, found in the Contarelli chapel in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi, is gentle and elegant. 

And the folds in St Matthew’s orange cloak in the ‘Inspiration of Matthew’  would feel almost like velvet, if it could be touched.

And the 'Martyrdom of Matthew' is dark and powerful.

San Luigi dei Francesi is just around the corner from Sant’Agostino. Make sure you have some euro coins to drop in the box to shine light on these wonderful paintings.


Vanished Caravaggios

As I write this my thoughts turn to what has been said to be ‘one of the worst art crimes in history’; the theft of Caravaggio’s Navitity with Saints Francis and Lawrence from the oratory of San Lorenzo in Palermo in 1969. The  Nativity was one of the works Caravaggio painted in the early 17th century when he was in Sicily. 

When it was cut from its frame one of the world’s greatest paintings vanished. Today only a replica of this lost Caravaggio can be enjoyed when in Palermo.

But as the 2014 finding of a possible Caravaggio in an attic of a French farmhouse shows, sometimes paintings thought lost can turn up centuries later and cause a wonderful stir. But is it a Caravaggio or just a masterful copy?

If it is a Caravaggio, as some think, then it is just wonderful!






A Note: The photos of St Peter and Saul are from Shutterstock. Photos are not permitted of the paintings in Santa Maria del Popolo.

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