Monday, August 29, 2011

Beheading of St. John the Baptist - Caravaggio Exhibit at Ottawa's National Gallery

Caravaggio (c. 1571-1610)
The Beheading of St. John the Baptist (1608)

Today in the liturgy, the Church celebrates the memorial of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist:

* * *

The Passion
of Saint John the Baptist

O God, who willed that Saint John the Baptist should go ahead of your Son both in birth and in death, grant that as he died a Martyr for truth and justice, we, too, may fight hard for the confession of what you teach. Through our Lord.

* * * * * *

Yesterday, I accepted Msgr. Gregory Smith's invitation to accompany him to the National Gallery's exhbition of the works of Caravaggio and artists of his time influenced by his style, innovations.
It is well laid out and the works are striking. I particularly was moved by several representations of St. Francis of Assisi and by a little known (until recently) depiction of St. Augustine (cf. below).
The exhibition, which opened on June 17, closes September 11.  Anyone near Ottawa who loves art is encouraged to take it in if you have not yet had a chance.

Caravaggio, St. Augustine (c. 1600)

A portrait of Saint Augustine in a private British collection has been identified as the work of the Italian master Caravaggio, with art historian and dealer Clovis Whitfield making a persuasive case by locating documentary evidence to support the identification.

According to the Guardian, Whitfield managed to trace the painting to one of Caravaggio’s most powerful patrons, Vincenzo Guistiniani, by discovering that a portrait of Saint Augustine of similar dimensions was recorded in the 1638 inventory of his collection. The painting, produced around the year 1600, is now attributed to Caravaggio in “Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome,” an exhibition on view at the National Gallery of Canada through September 11, and will appear in a book with the same title to be published by Yale University Press.

“What looked like an anonymous 17th-century painting revealed its artistic qualities after restoration,” Sebastian Schütze, an art historian who is one of the book’s co-authors, told the Guardian. David Franklin, co-author and director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, noted that the portrait “shows a side of Caravaggio perhaps that is not as drastic and antagonistic as usual, but where he was working very closely with Giustiniani to try to create a much more quiet image of a saint.”

Indeed, Caravaggio, who was known for his violent escapades, as revealed in detail by the recent discovery of his police file, was not a man naturally given to quiet reflection and contemplation. (