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March 2, 2011



Liberation of Peter from Prison

Giovanni Battista Caracciolo c. 1615.

Oil on canvas.

For Pio Monte della Misericordia, Naples, now in Museo di Capodimonte, Naples.

Like Caravaggio’s Seven Acts of Mercy, the Pio Monte della Misericordia commissioned this painting by Caracciolo.  There is clear evidence that Caracciolo was inspired by Caravaggio, Orazio Gentileschi, and other contemporary artists (Causa).

The theatrical chiaroscuro recalls Caravaggio’s paintings, particularly Seven Acts of Mercy. Although there are fewer figures in Caracciolo’s composition, they are monumental, nonetheless.  The setting is so dark it is almost undeterminable.  However, we know it is a prison, for the guards are asleep, as the story of Peter goes.

Also like Caravaggio, Caracciolo uses a mixture of both young men as models and older, brawny peasants.  The figure of Peter seems to be modeled on a younger boy, contrary to the muscular guards.  The one guard’s foot comes right up to the edge of the picture plane, but is not dramatically extended into our space as Caravaggio probably would have painted it.

Like many of Caravaggio’s later works, this is a nocturnal scene.  Thus, it is fitting that Caracciolo take advantage of the Caravaggesque tenebrism.

Stefano Causa. “Caracciolo, Giovanni Battista.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. 2 Mar. 2011 <;

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