Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Two Michelangelos: Postscript - Another Contarelli Chapel Commission

Caravaggio was contracted for two side paintings in the Contarelli chapel, those we have looked at in the last three posts. The project was finished and installed in 8 months. For the front wall of the chapel, the Flemish sculptor Jacob Cobaert was commissioned to complete a "St. Matthew and the Angel" which was rejected for unknown reasons a short while after being installed. The sculpture ended up in Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini in Rome.

The church turned once again to Caravaggio, asking him to complete a painting for the space. Caravaggio produced this work:

The church rejected this painting as well and if we take a closer look it is easy to understand why. The angel is guiding St. Matthew's hand which, combined with the look on his face, makes him look rather like a simpleton. In addition, the position of the Saint's dirty left foot puts it precariously close to the  eucharist when it is raised during the liturgy. The painting eventually ended up in the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum  in Berlin and was destroyed by American bombing in World War II. 

Caravaggio, being the consummate professional that he was, painted a second version that remains in the chapel to this day:

For amazing hi-res images of the paintings in the Chapel visit: Contarelli Chapel hi-res pics.
And an interesting documentary on how they produced the above images: Caravaggio, creating three facsimiles.

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