Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Caravaggio's Works in Edinburgh

Two works by Caravaggio, one of them thought for decades to be a copy have gone on display at the Queens Gallery at Holyrood Palace.

They are part of an exhibition of 31 paintings and 43 drawings entitled the Art of Italy.

The Baroque is my favourite era of Art History, and Caravaggio is by far my favourite artist. When I started (though didn't finish because I couldn't afford it at the time) a PHD in Art History, it was on the work of Caravaggio and His Followers. Caravaggio really revolutionised the art world and broke all the artistic conventions of the time.

It's not just his work that fascinates me, his turbulent and fairly short life is well worth looking at too.

His works have an uncanny sense of movement in them, but possibly the best aspect is the almost three dimensional effect he manages to achieve.

My favourite example of this is the Head of Medusa painted on a parade shield.

It's in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. As you turn a corner in the gallery, it sits almost by itself and you first see it from a distance. As you get closer, it seems as though though the head is projected out from the shield itself. It truly is a masterpiece given that it is painted on a convex surface, which is perhaps why photo's never do it justice.

The talent of these old Masters perhaps throws into sharp focus the utter s**te that gets punted into galleries today and sold for ludicrous sums of money. Japanese investors got their fingers really burned a few years ago when they paid vast sums for European 'modern art' that they were assured would rise in value, only to find that the pieces they bought plummeted shortly afterwards.

Of course you could argue that modern artists are, in their turn, breaking conventions and challenging our perceptions, just as Caravaggio and other Baroque artists did. On the other hand, you could equally argue that they are turning out meaningless crap made from household rubbish, or worse still, simply moving the contents of their bedroom into a gallery and passing it off as some kind of artistic statement or comment on modern life as Emin did.

Anyway, I digress. I'll no doubt go and see this exhibition half a dozen times before it ends in March, and if you're in the area, I'd recommend it as well worth a visit.


headless said...

Jim, I recently saw the Caravaggio "wing" in the Uffizi.

Unfortunately, I'd already spent 4 hours viewing the other rooms and the Caravaggio exhibition is right at the end. I suddenly realised that it was about 6.20pm with the gallery closing at 6.30pm and legged it down to the Caravaggios so consequently had only about 4 mins.

You're dead right about the Medusa though.

Unfortunately, you're also right that photo's really don't do the work justice.

Pity Edinburgh is so far from Suffolk, otherwise I might have been tempted to come have a look.

P.S. My favourite piece in the entire fortnight was Ghirlandaio's "Obsequies of St Fina" in the Colleggiata in San Gimignano. Had me mesmerised for what felt like ages. Wonderful memory - thanks for evoking it again!

Jim said...


Thanks for stopping by, and for leaving a comment.

I loved San Gimignano, and spent a day (and a fortune there).

I'll do a post on the exhibition when I have been to see it.



Fox In Detox said...

Wow..if that last one's art, then my entire apartment should be on display at MOMA any day now...

Jim said...

Mine too Fox! I'd be happy to sell the untidy contents of my bedroom to some pretentious arse with more money than sense.

Anonymous said...

photos is plural and doesn't need an apostrophe. I.E. should read PHOTOS, not "photo's". The words "crap" and "sh**e" belong in a serious piece on Baroque Art as much as Tracey Emin belongs in a list of the greatest artists of all time.