It must have seemed static and distanced. The second version turned to Raphael for a model, adding a crowd of onlookers displaying fear and pity, including a woman who presumably represented the nun.
The king of Ethiopia, Hirticus, wished to marry his niece Iphigenia, the abbess of a convent, whose resurrection by Saint Matthew and conversion to Christianity provided the subject for D'Arpino's fresco in the vault. When Saint Matthew forbade the marriage, Hirticus had him killed.
The scene takes place in the foreground of a vast, dark interior, where nearly nude converts to the left and right of a pool await baptism.
An altar is in the background. Muziano had painted the subject a few years earlier in the Roman church of Santa Maria Aracoeli, but it was not very often represented.
Caravaggio must have been familiar with Muziano's painting and perhaps with a now-lost drawing for the scene made by the Cavaliere d'Arpino while he was still under contract to do the lateral paintings. Caravaggio seems to have been most influenced, however, by more distant works: Titian 's famous painting destroyed by fire in of The Death of Saint Peter Martyr in the church of Santi Giovanni Paolo in Venice, of which there were many prints in circulation by the end of the sixteenth century; Marcantonio Raimondi's engraving after Raphael's Massacre of the Innocents ; and comparable derivative works.
From these sources, all appropriate to a scene of Christian martyrdom, Caravaggio took various poses. He focused on the executioner in the center, at the critical moment when he seizes the supine, helpless Saint Matthew.
While Matthew raises his right hand beseechingly toward the executioner, the angel hands down the martyr's palm and the other figures scatter in dismay. We see only fragments of these fleeing figures; light falls jaggedly on them like a strobe, emphasizing their confusion.
This outburst of action contrasts with the inaction of the Calling; the movements of those figures seem to be momentarily suspended, while these appear to be congealed in their poses.
The pause in the movement of the figures in the Calling is a part of the narrative and contributes to its authenticity; these men in flight, on the other hand, have been portrayed in an instant of continuing action.
The executioner and the saint might pause, just before the fatal blow is struck; but the fleeing figures are in precarious, unsustainable poses, so that the effect is artificial, as if the instant of the outburst of response had been quick-frozen.
The confusion of movement and the almost jigsaw pattern of sharply contrasting lights and darks are stabilized by the horizontals of the steps and the altar and by the dim architectural background verticals. Less evident than in the Calling but faintly discernible is an underlying grid composition underpinning the jumble of actions around the central figure.
The harshness of the act of assassination is modified by the graceful S-curve connecting the body of the angel through his arm and the palm branch to Saint Matthew's arms.
The juxtaposition of the saint's right hand, the executioner's left hand, and the martyr's palm over the Maltese cross on the altarpiece cannot have been accidental; their proximity provides a focus for the meaning of the painting.
Perhaps the single candle burning on the altar is symbolic, representing the all-seeing eye of God, ever present and aware of His martyr's sacrifice; it may also refer to the fugitiveness of human life. The most distant figure is a self-portrait of Caravaggio; it provides a very specific reference point for the viewer, as if Caravaggio were participating in the tragedy, and thus making it contemporary.
He looks out at the martyrdom, as if to involve the spectator in it.St. Matthew often appears in Christian art among the four evangelists. When the evangelists are represented only by symbols, especially in the earlier art, Matthew's symbol will be an angel ().When they are presented as men with attributes, Matthew's attribute is an angel (), often a small one standing at his left foot ().See the page for the evangelists.
I chose “The Martyrdom of St. Matthew” as the painting that best illustrates the baroque period.
The reasons surrounding my decision are clear in Caravaggio’s painting. Here Caravaggio uses the entire canvas to illustrate complexity, flow, and chiaroscuro. The Calling of St. Matthew, The Martyrdom of St. Matthew and St. Matthew and the Angel are all situated in the dimly lit Contarelli Chapel.
To see these paintings, the viewer had to make an effort to go directly to the Chapel in able to discern the specific details and subject matter of each painting.
THE INSPIRATION OF SAINT MATTHEW is Caravaggio's second version of the subject, was the last in the series, although it is over the high altar and therefore central in location as well as meaning.
Unlike the lateral canvases, it is visible from all points in the chapel, a . The martyrdom of Saint Matthew the Evangelist, author of the Gospel of Matthew Paintings. Bacchus Basket of The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew.
The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula The Musicians The Penitent Magdalene The Seven Works of Mercy The Stigmatization of Saint Francis The Taking of Christ Young Sick Bacchus. Artble. A bibliography of the source literature on William Hogarth, including book reviews, online essays and exhibitions, image archives, and special search tools on William Hogarth.