It’s an incredible painting…by Caravaggio.
• This article discusses Caravaggio’s piece “Madonna di Loreto” otherwise known as the Madonna of the Pilgrims. In the picture “the pilgrims, a barefoot old man and an old woman, kneel before a sleepy Mary and the infant Jesus.” What is interesting to see is how as Mary comes to greet the couple in her hand Jesus reaches out and is blessing this traveling couple. The models of the painting (those who represent the pilgrims are obvious people of the Roman streets. The author of this article, Michael Kimmelman, is quoted in saying “That’s the beauty of the thing. Caravaggio’s hyper-realism, a magician’s conjuring trick, I have come to regard as a perfect metaphor for great art, which declines to make obvious its deepest truths, leaving us to decipher them if we can. I go back to the picture from time to time to remind myself of that fact, and of my long-ago flush of discovery.” The work is indeed a great one. The halos around Mary and the Christ child’s heads are faint but they are there. Again the fact that it is showing this infant hold so much power is marvelous as well. The colors show that these two pilgrims have traveled in the night to seek out the two powerful beings and it strongly suggests that Mary has been awaken from her slumber in order to answer to the knock of these two pilgrims and is willing to lend ear.
This art work is very realistic in its depiction of the figures.The art invokes emotion from the viewer which is very characteristic of Baroque art. The light that shines down shines clearly on where the action is happening in the scene.
This is truly a fascinating painting. What surprises me most about it is its realism in depicting the Virgin and her Child. Rather than appearing as a majestic queen sitting on a throne with a gold background, like we saw with paintings from the thirteenth century, she is an ordinary woman, standing barefoot in her home during the night. Nonetheless, Mary is still distinguished as important, as she and baby Jesus look down at the kneeling pilgrims. It must have been a wonderful experience for the people of this time period to see holy figures looking so lifelike. The common people, seeing themselves represented in the painting as the tired, disheveled pilgrims, would have felt an even deeper connection to Mary and Jesus.
Before reading the article that accompanied the painting, I carefully observed the elements of the piece of art for myself. What stood out to me first was the bright white of Mary’s and baby Jesus’ skin as well as the blanket Mary holds, contrasted with the light illuminating the male peasant’s feet and legs. I found this very interesting because it seemed to frame the picture, and drew the viewer’s eyes to the upper left and lower right corners rather than the center of the image. In fact, there is nothing to focus on in the center of this piece. I feel like this is unusual compared to other pieces of that era, which is maybe what makes it so mysterious and intriguing, as the article goes on to describe.
I love Baroque art specifically for the way light is used to portray a much deeper meaning. The way Mary is fully shown in a bright light, making her glow in a bright white symbolizes her purity. The way light halfway reveals but also obscures the baby Jesus is symbolic of the divine and secular parentage rolled into one. And the way the common people are shaded exaggerate their expressions of amazement and wonder. The background is especially interesting to me. Having the scene held on a black background that hints on a further scene further back really puts the audience in the shoes (or lack of) of the common people.
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