Vocazione di San Matteo - The calling of St. Matthews (oil on canvas) 👨🏻🎨 Caravaggio (1599-1600)
This masterpiece by Caravaggio depicts the moment when Jesus inspires Matthew to follow him as narrated in the Gospel of Matthew.
On the right hand side, we can see Jesus accompanied by Peter pointing towards Matthew. It is not clear which man represents Matthew: some scholars have suggested it’s the man hunched over the coins (Matthew was a Jewish tax collector) after noticing the bearded man pointing at him. However, the most popular interpretation is that Matthew is the bearded man, pointing his finger gently to his chest. The same man is also represented in the other two paintings located next to this one in the Contarelli Chapel, which gives us a strong indication on the identity of Matthew. According to some, Caravaggio was purposefully ambiguous about Matthew’s identity to suggest God could call upon any of them.
Art historians have suggested that the position of Christ’s fingers mimics those of Adam in ‘The Creation of Adam’ by Michelangelo (Sistine Chapel).
A dash of light sweeps the canvas from right to left and illuminates the room to add a dramatic touch to the whole scene.
Caravaggio’s signature lighting technique (chiaroscuro) is beautifully displayed in this masterpiece.
Currently in the San Luigi dei Francesi Church, Rome, Italy.