“The Martyrdom of St. Matthew” - Painting Analysis

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I chose “The Martyrdom of St. Matthew” as the painting that best illustrates the baroque period. The reasons surrounding my decision are clear in Caravaggio’s painting. Here Caravaggio uses the entire canvas to illustrate complexity, flow, and chiaroscuro. The painting depicts the source of lighting to be coming from the left side of the plane. The brightest light focuses directly on Matthew’s executioner who intends to strike Matthew with an old balcanic hand weapon. Caravaggio masterfully illustrates the use of lighting by casting believable shadows. As an example, the shadow of the handle on balcanic hand weapon reflects on the executioner’s left thigh and knee. Another shadow appears on the executioner’s right inner thigh. The lighting source to the left of the executioner, the executioner, St. Matthews, the boy, the 2 observer’s bottom, right, and the fainter lighting upper left of the canvas illustrates the technique of visual movement. The lighting is placed strategically, causing visual movement within the piece. For example, the illumination of the executioner’s forearm directs my attention to the angel who appears to be handing St. Matthew a palm leaf. As a result, my eyes then focuses on the body of St. Matthew, lying on the bottom of the altar, then my eyes shifts up toward the Angle’s arm. The lighting on the angel's arm contrasted with the darkness of the palm leaf forces the viewer to look at the hand to see what St. Matthew is reaching for. The boy fleeing the scene further draws in the viewer. The two adult observers at the bottom right of the painting are illuminated but not as bright as the two main characters. Next, my attention is drawn to the man lying on the bottom steps, left side of the canv...

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...ic landscapes. The baroque marked the time in which painters considered using subjects other than scenes from the Bible and from classical traditions. The baroque period also was the period in which artists painted portraits, and everyday life scenes. Baroque artist broke away from trying to make the calm balance known to the renaissance artists. Artists from the baroque era were interested in no longer tried in the extreme. They wanted to paint subjects possessing strong emotions; they wanted to capture those emotions and feelings in their work. Instead of just extremes of feeling sometimes, these strong emotions were personal. More often artists tried to portray intense religious emotions. Baroque art attempted to explain how and why their subjects fit as strongly as they did by representing their emotional states as vividly and analytically as possible.

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