the calling of saint matthew by caravaggio uses what technique
In keeping with his plain, unvarnished aesthetics, Caravaggio borrows from his earlier genre painting (The Cardsharps, The Fortune-Teller), and sets the scene in what appears to be a tavern, rather than a counting house or office. He may have modelled it on earlier examples of Northern Renaissance art – by Hans Holbein and others – featuring money lenders seated around a table. In addition, he introduces some very human interplay into the situation. To begin with, when he sees Christ pointing at him, Levi responds with a gesture, as if to say “Me?” indicating his uncertainty whether he is being addressed, or the younger man slumped on his right. In addition, the ray of light illuminating their faces, draws attention to the two youths, who appear rather lost in this group of older men. While one of them draws back in apprehension and looks to his older neighbour for protection, the other has turned to confront Christ, causing Saint Peter to gesture firmly for calm. Through the visual contrast between their reactions, Caravaggio displays psychological insight into two possible patterns of human behaviour in the same situation.
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Both were completed between 1599 and 1600 and painted in oil on canvas. These pieces brought Caravaggio renown throughout Rome for his use of dramatic lighting and realism, which represented a departure from the Mannerist style that had dominated up to that point.
Though Caravaggio started work on The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew first, he abandoned it to work on this piece instead, and likely finished this one first.
The painting depicts the story from the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 9:9): “Jesus saw a man named Matthew at his seat in the custom house, and said to him, “Follow me”, and Matthew rose and followed Him.” Caravaggio depicts Matthew the tax collector sitting at a table with four other men. Jesus Christ and Saint Peter have entered the room, and Jesus is pointing at Matthew. A beam of light illuminates the faces of the men at the table who are looking at Jesus Christ.
Over a decade before, Cardinal Matthieu Cointerel (in Italian, Matteo Contarelli) had left in his will funds and specific instructions for the decoration of a chapel based on themes related to his namesake, St Matthew. The dome of the chapel was decorated with frescoes by the late Mannerist artist Cavalier D’Arpino, Caravaggio’s former employer and one of the most popular painters in Rome at the time. But as D’Arpino became busy with royal and papal patronage, Cardinal Francesco Del Monte, Caravaggio’s patron and also the prefect of the Fabbrica of St Peter’s (the Vatican office for Church property), intervened to obtain for Caravaggio his first major church commission and his first painting with more than a handful of figures.
John L. Varriano, Caravaggio: The Art of Realism (Penn State Press, 2006), p.111.
The painting depicts a scene from the New Testament, in Chapter 9 of the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew 9:9 reads, “Jesus saw a man named Matthew at his seat in the custom house, and said to him, “Follow me”, and Matthew rose and followed Him.” The painting captures this exact moment when Jesus reaches out his hand and calls on Matthew, who is sitting at a table with other tax collectors, to follow him. The already-called apostle Peter has also entered the room with Christ in the scene, and he also points out to the group of men in an effort to calm the surprised men and show his support of Jesus’ words. The pointed finger of Christ is an allusion to the pointed finger of God in Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, which suggests a direct connection between Jesus and God the Father, and could also be Caravaggio’s way of praising Michelangelo’s masterpiece.
Caravaggio’s former, flashy employer Cavaliere d’Arpino originally won the commission and executed some frescoes in the dome but was unable to complete the work due to his many other commitments.
Furthermore, Caravaggio’s other works for the San Luigi dei Francesi, the French Church in Rome had already served to establish the artist as a leader of the new naturalistic movement in Rome.