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CARAVAGGIO: The Conversion of Paul


Title: CARAVAGGIO: The Conversion of Paul Author: Dr KGJ Baker Last modified by: Dr KGJ Baker Created Date: 2/15/2008 7:38:04 PM Document presentation format – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: CARAVAGGIO: The Conversion of Paul

CARAVAGGIO The Conversion of Paul
  • Looking at Acts 9

Conversione di San Paolo
  • The Conversion on the Way to Damascus is a
    masterpiece by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio,
    painted in 1601 for the Cerasi Chapel of the
    church of Santa Maria del Popolo, in Rome.
  • The painting depicts the moment recounted in
    Chapter 9 of Acts of the Apostles when Saul, soon
    to be the apostle Paul, fell on the road to
    Damascus. He heard the Lord say "I am Jesus, whom
    you persecute, arise and go into the city.

Looking at the picture
  • On this canvas, Saul is an epileptic and
    fractured figure, flattened by the divine flash,
    flinging his arms upward in a funnel.
  • There are three figures in the painting. The
    commanding muscular horse dominates the canvas,
    yet it is oblivious to the divine light that
    defeated his rider's gravity. The aged groom is
    human, but gazes earthward, also ignorant of the
    moment of where God intervenes in human traffic.

  • Only Saul, whose gravity and world has been
    overturned lies supine on the ground, but facing
    heaven, arms supplicating rescue. The groom can
    see his shuffling feet, and the horse can plod
    its hooves, measuring its steps but both are
    blind to the miracle and way. They inhabit the
    unilluminated gloom of the upper canvas.
  • Saul, physically blinded by the event for three
    days, suddenly sees the Christian message. For
    once, his soul can hear the voice of Jesus,
    asking, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
    His sword and his youthful sinews are powerless
    against this illuminating bolt of faith.

  • This is not a pallid faith, with the sweet little
    cherubim of earlier work. The altarpiece is a
    world of an ascendant and joyous faith, bathed in
    refulgent daylight colours. Into a world fallen
    into dusk, faith is electroshock therapy etched
    in light. This is not a myth with multitudes of
    demigods, but a stark life-sized world of one
    horse and two men. One man has crashed with and
    now feels crushed by the lit universe. Caravaggio
    is painting at his peak of control and in his
    most enduring style.

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