Caravaggio had a superb talent and his paintings are extremely life like. I think his talent was enabling the images to come to life using his skills and giving them human like qualities through the narratives in the scenes being depicted through the painting.
There was also a rather somber feel to most of his artwork. I think this was due to the heavy and dark backgrounds in his paintings. They give the artwork a kind of morose feeling, especially in the more emotional images. The dark colours he uses reflect the feelings emanating from the paintings.
You definitely get this feeling from the following paintings.
‘Christ at the column’ (1607)
And also the famous ‘Seven Acts of Mercy’ below:
Both these images are very powerful and very though provoking and the harsh and dark colours demonstrate this in a compelling way.
The foreground image is very prominent because of this technique and I’m sure that is what Caravaggio intended.
Bacchus…God of the Grape Harvest and Wine
Bacchus’ semi naked form here is in no doubt innocent. I think Caravaggio intended this work to be an image of temptation. I think that the fruit laid out before him symbolizes the ‘forbidden fruit’ of Adam and Eve. Bacchus is either offering a delicious glass of wine or flirting with the idea of drinking it himself. The way his right torso is displayed in a casual manner is also suspicious. The white robe he is wearing could fall open at any moment if it weren’t from him keeping a loose grasp on the middle.
It was known that Caravaggio had a male lover and that he in fact used him in many of his paintings. I believe that there is no doubt that this is Caravaggio’s lover and that this particular painting would have been a delight for hi to create.
David with the head of Goliath (1605-1610)
Caravaggio’s version of David and Goliath is what I would consider as truer interpretation of the story and more socially acceptable in comparison to Donatello’s bronze nude. Caravaggio displays David in a way which is more truer to the biblical story behind it and how David should be portrayed.
We can see David’s right upper torso and arm displaying a subtle but muscular physique. I think Caravaggio gives the viewer enough of David’s flesh to show he is a young man and not boyish like in Donatello’s version. David’s face is beautifully angelic and he appears quite calm and reserved. He is a perfect interpretation, much like Michelangelo’s marble version of David.
They are a complete contrast, one being a statue and one being a painting, however they are both exquisite pieces of artwork.
The Entombment of Christ (1603-1604)
Caravaggio very cleverly recreates the moment Jesus Christ is buried. It looks almost like a still from a film or theater. The captured movements of the figures in the image have a very theatrical feel, especially the women in the back who is very clearly distraught by the death of Christ.
It is clear from the painting that Christ is now dead and he is being carefully taken away to his tomb by the surrounding mourners. His body is lifeless and draped in white cloth as we know well enough from the Bible. Even though Jesus is dead, Caravaggio renders him in a way that still gives him his heavenly status. His muscular physique can be seen quite clearly, were it not for the white cloth to cover his modesty, the image leaves little to the imagination. However it is a very respectful piece of art that reflects brilliantly the peoples love for Jesus.
You can even see a wound underneath Jesus’ right underarm which indicates that this wouldn’t have been long after his cruel execution from the Jews.
Even though we are seeing an almost naked form in the image, it is no way of a sexual nature as is some other of Caravaggio’s artwork such as Bacchus.
As I have found during my research of historical artwork I have found that a great majority of it has an underlying sexual intention. It is more often than not in a very subtle way but it is there all the same. There will be some small gesture somewhere implying sex in someway.
I believe that this is because in the days of Donatello, Da Vinci, Caravaggio and so on, sex was an extremely taboo subject, the naked body was was seen as ungodly and foul, something which was seen as devilish and unclean, especially by the church. And in a era which was ruled by religion it was definitely not something to be displayed openly in a sexual way. Religious art can often have naked bodies, scenes of violence and also scenes of a sexual nature, but not in a celebratory way, but to show its ungodliness and its evilness.
So, therefore these artists would have relished in their subtle hints towards sex within their work as they could get away with it quite easily.