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Supper at Emmaus

February 7, 2011


Supper at Emmaus

Caravaggio 1600.

Oil on canvas.

National Gallery, London.

Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus marks a shift in his personal style from still life and irreverent mythological scenes to sober religious scenes (Wittkower 21).  Even his palette changes from bright crisp colors to darker colors with almost black backgrounds.

Caravaggio’s Supper shows a Christ in power.  As is the norm for Caravaggio, this painting captures the moment of revelation, the height of the drama.  This is indicated not only by Christ’s gesture, but by the reactions of the disciples – one jumps out of his seat, the other flings his arms out in surprise.  The contrappasto to the disciples’ dramatic responses is the oblivious servant.

The artist’s past does not escape this setting: Caravaggio painted the food on the table in his signature still life manner.  The lifelessness of the chicken on the table juxtaposes the life, which the Risen Christ is full of.  Also, the bowl of fruit looks as thought it is about to fall off the table.  This combined with Christ’s hand and the right disciple’s hand is an element Caravaggio used to move the painting into the viewer’s space (Wittkower 21).

Although Caravaggio never gave up what made his work his, Supper at Emmaus marks a turning point for the artist into the Baroque era.

Wittkower, Rudolf.  Art and Architecture in Italy 1600-1750: Vol. I, Early Baroque. Yale University Press. 1958.

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