Page 12, 15th March 1996

15th March 1996
Page 12
Page 12, 15th March 1996 — A revelation at the inn

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People: Caravaggio


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A revelation at the inn

Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus was painted around 1600. It shows the drama of religious art at its starkest.

At first, one is confronted by the wild alarm of the innocent travellers, arms outstretched and rising from their seats, suddenly brought into intimate contact with the inconceivable: Jesus, their Lord, has Risen.

This is experienced in an almost grubby context, in a poor village inn. The fruit on the table is slowly rotting. It is a subtle reminder, perhaps, of our own mortality.

The innkeeper appears to be a burly tough. He is of the kind only too well known, just as the seedy inn would have been, in the lifestyle and wildliving experiences of the artist Caravaggio.

The light in the scene comes from an inadequate lamp. The light shines conspicuously on the smooth face of the young Christ and casts shadows behind.

His face appears untouched by pain or death, and he blesses the bread.

It is not Christ who is believable as Risen, but the disciples who are believable as experiencing something beyond their normal capacity.

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