Friday, July 01, 2011

Sacred and Profane

Do you remember the film Amadeus? Even though it was three hours in length and took creative liberties with the life story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart it was brilliant entertainment. Wolfie, as his wife calls him in the film, is a scatological, socially inept wastrel who happens to create sublime music. His arch enemy is the court musician, Salieri, a plodder who realizes Mozart's brilliance and comes to hate him for it, as he also hates God for giving Mozart the talent he figures he deserves.

There is an art exhibit which opened June 16th at the National Gallery in Ottawa about another "bad boy" creative genius, the 17th century painter Caravaggio. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was brilliant in his use of light and shadow and as an artist he has "aged well" through the centuries. He is now considered one of the great painters of his era. At the time he was a bad-tempered rogue who had to run from the law because he stabbed a policeman and later killed a tennis opponent.

Caravaggio was a nasty bit of work all round, yet he created some of the great religious images of his time. Not long ago I showed two of his works on successive Sundays, one of them The Last Supper in the National Gallery in London. Part of Caravaggio's genius was his use of real people in his works depicting mythological and biblical figures. There are only 70 authenticated Caravaggio paintings because he didn't live all that long. He died at the age of 38 under mysterious circumstances.

Do you know the work of Caravaggio? Do you think you will go to the exhibit? More importantly, why would God work through such questionable individuals to produce such spiritually uplifting art?


Laurie said...

The show at the National Gallery is a bit misleading. It is called Caravaggio and Followers. There are only about ten works by Caravaggio and the rest are his followers. It was a bit disappointing. His works are great, some of his followers are good but he was clearly the master. As for your other question, "God works in mysterious ways"

IanD said...

I had never heard of the man, and certainly it is somewhat odd that someone of such questionable moral character would create such acclaimed religious artwork.

johnny said...

I don't know about Caravaggio, but my girlfriend says I have the exact same laugh as Amadeus. That is not a compliment.