Sunday, April 12, 2009

Carravaggio - The Taking of Christ, Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to all followers of this blog! First I'd like to introduce you to my etsy shop where you can buy prints of my work at great prices. Feel free to browse. And secondly...

Here is an Easter story, one with relevance to my hometown of Dublin.

The Taking of Christ was painted by Michelangelo de Merisi, who was known as Carravaggio, in Rome in 1602. Carravaggio was relatively unknown before he painted this and it lifted him into a position of prominent among his contemporaries. At the time, there was a large number of talented painters, so it was difficult to make a living. He was however, paid handsomely for his quality of work in this painting. It took about a month to paint. Carravaggio was however an unfortunate individual, in that he often drank and brawled in street fights. He spent the last years of his life as a fugitive in France, after he killed a man in such a fight. He died in a small village in France at the age of 38. His potential was therefore largely unrealised. (His self-portrait is seen above as the man in the upper right holding the lantern.)

This work was so good that many others painted replicas of it, as many rich people wanted to own it, but couldn't afford the cost. The family that did own it , the Mattei family passed it down the generations but they fell on hard times and had to sell a number of paintings. By the end of the 17th Century, this style of art was not so much liked anymore and prices for such paintings fell from their previous heights. The painting was unfortunately mistaken at the time of the sale by the descendants of the Mattei family as being by a painter of one of the replica paintings, Gerard van Thonthorst. It was bought with a large group of other paintings by a Scottish landowner, William Hamilton Nesbit, in whose home it hung from 1802 to 1921. It was sold by his descendants to an art dealer called Kemp after having hung in a dusty corner of the house in total obscurity. At the time it was not even attributed to Thonthorst but was noted as being after Thonthurst! In other words a replica of his work!! The dealer sold it on quickly.

In 1916, the struggle for independence in Ireland was suppressed by the British army and police. One such policeman was married to an Irish doctor, (I have to research the name later!). He was accused after the uprising of having been excessively cruel to one Irish member of the uprising, while they were in captivity after the event. This lead to a plot to kill him, and in 1920 he was murdered. His wife was distraught as she believed in the innocence of her husband. She commissioned a stain glass window to be put in her church to commemorate her husband, and wanted the famous artist Harry Clarke to create it. He was in Scotland at the time and so she travelled to meet him. It was there that she was to buy the painting. She saw it as representing the innocence of Christ being stolen in the same way her innocent husband was taken from her.
She brought the painting back to Dublin. She was helped through her grief by the Jesuit order in Dublin, and donated the painting to them when she died. It then hung over a disused fireplace in their residence until it's discovery by accident in 1993. An art historian from Italy, working in the nearby Irish National Gallery, was asked to clean it, and the rest is history...

That's it for now, hope you enjoy this story and come back to see more of my work soon.

Some more History of Art and Tips on Art Collecting:
Four stages of an Great Artists Career and Art Collecting
The life story of Van Gogh
Edgar Degas
The Pre-raphaelites
Brief history of Pierre-Auguste Renoir

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