CHURCH OF PIO MONTE DELLA MISERICORDIA, CARAVAGGIO

Audio File length: 2.47
Author: STEFANO ZUFFI E DAVIDE TORTORELLA
English / USA Language: English / USA

Painted by Caravaggio during his first stay in Naples in 1606, this great canvas over the high altar sums up all of the Seven Works of Misery, condensing them with a great compositional genius that is empasized by the use of light. The painting depicts a normal everyday situation: a crowded scene set at a crossroads in the heart of Naples.

Smiling, the Madonna appears above as if looking out of a palace: two very athletic angels form a sort of balcony with their wings, while a white tunic waves like a sheet hanging up to dry.

With total creative freedom, Caravaggio painted the image without determining a center or a perspective, giving you an exhilarating and vivacious impression. Try to follow the scene and recognize the various episodes. Start from the far right: a prudent girl uncovers her breast and offers it to an elderly man sticking out of the grates of a prison. Citing an episode of ancient literature about a young Roman woman who nursed her father in jail, here the painter likened the charitable actions of "nourishing the hungry" and "visiting the prisoners", and the classic reference is "translated" into an immediate popular truth. Behind him, a man is helping carry a corpse, thus "burying the dead". The man with the torch and open mouth is probably the painter's self-portrait. At the center of the scene, a young man is taking off his mantle to give it to a half-naked beggar lying on the floor, demonstrating the precept of "dressing the naked" but also "healing the sick", represented by the cripple whose foot is showing. Immediately behind, a pilgrim that can be recognized by the symbolic shell on his hat is invited to enter by a cordial, gentle man, ready to "host the pilgrims". Finally, at the back left, a mighty Samson avidly drinks, referencing the mercy of "refreshing the thirsty".

 

FUN FACT: this splendid altarpiece still lies in its original home thanks to a timely arrangement of the association protecting the property of Pio Monte, which forever forbade its sale, regardless of price.

Just think, they even still have the original contract, which paid the painter the huge sum of 470 ducats.

And with this we have finished our tour of Pio Monte della Misericordia. MyWoWo thanks you for staying with us, and will see you at the next Wonder of the World!

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