The Inspiration of Saint Matthew (1602) by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

The Inspiration of Saint Matthew - Caravaggio - 1602

Artwork Information

TitleThe Inspiration of Saint Matthew
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions9' 8 1/2" x 6' 2 1/2"
Current LocationContarelli Chapel, Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome

About The Inspiration of Saint Matthew

The Inspiration of Saint Matthew is a painting by the Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, commissioned in 1602 by Cardinal Contarelli for the Chapel bearing his name in the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome. The canvas depicts an angel from heaven inspiring Saint Matthew to write, with the saint looking as if he has been caught in the act of writing.

Caravaggio draws inspiration from realism to place this biblical scene into modern reality. The scene is set within a dimly lit chamber, where light streams through an unseen window and catches Matthew’s face and his compatriots’ expressions. The powerful use of light contrasts with shadow adds depth and shadowy mystery to Caravaggio’s subject matter.

The painting hangs over the high altar and casts its expansive sightline across every corner of the chapel, ensuring that it remains visible from all points within it. This masterpiece marks a new chapter in Baroque Art due to its somber atmosphere and stark clarity, defying traditional art style.

Historians consider “The Inspiration of Saint Matthew” as one more reverence than earthly admiration for human passion, which puts it among unique depictions of this particular saint. Its grandiose setting shows that religion was essential to life; therefore meant much more than material things at that time represented through peaceful or riotous scenes alike captured daringly on canvas or paper around this era but famously done maturely yet bravely by Caravaggio himself while creating biblical works like “The Inspiration Of St Mathew.”

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