The three artworks discussed – Bernini’s The Ecstasy of St. Theresa, Caravaggio’s The Calling of St. Matthew, and Rembrandt van Rijn’s Resurrection of Christ are now analyzed for their resemblance with the typical artwork of the baroque period in terms of form, content and subject matter. Baroque art of the 17th century is associated with drama and complexity became the hallmark of the artistic creations of the period (Gardner, Kleiner, & Mamiya, 2006).
Bernini’s The Ecstasy of St. Theresa show distinct character of Italian Baroque and adhere to the conventional trend of not being “defined by spatial settings” (Gardner, Kleiner, & Mamiya, 2006, p. 576). Bernini’s sculpture is full of theatrical elegance with the manifold textures and the use of the light. The proponents of the movement believed that the recreation of spiritual experiences would increase piety among viewers. So Bernini used recreated the ecstasy of the saint through a mingling of the spiritual and the physical passion. This suggests that the theatrical design and treatment of the art was useful in setting the counter-reformation goals into place. The setting of the art is in a chapel.
In the painting of Caravaggio, too the didactic presence is imminent. The life of the saint is shown in the painting. The choice of the saint is the spiritual message reflecting through the painting. The painting represents a modern Roman setting as if Christ and Mathew lived in Caravaggio’s own time (Harris, 2005), showing the Baroque tradition of inspiring piety through depiction of spiritual incidents. His work too is based in a chapel.
Rembrandt’s too in his painting showed the spiritual light. In the painting Resurrection of Christ there is an angelic light which appears around Christ. Here Rembrandt like Caravaggio and Bernini used the depiction of light to show the appearance of the divine. In the painting, the use of light, which represents divinity, is remarkably distinct. In this painting, like Caravaggio Rembrandt uses a dark background and uses light to pick up the main characters (Acton, 1997). The light appears from top left in similar fashion as that of Caravaggio. However, the departure in theme and form from Caravaggio or Bernini is in its theme, which is more emotional for Rembrandt than dramatic.
Bernini’s erotic description of St. Theresa was conflicting with Rome’s description of eclectic art. Still Bernini chose to depict it even when he was a devout catholic, which is a characteristic of the Baroque art. Even the use of light and dark in paintings is a special character of baroque paintings extensively used by Caravaggio and Rembrandt. This play of light too was incorporated in Bernini’s sculpture (Barber, 2008). In Rembrandt’s Calling when Christ enters to recruit St. Mathews, there enters St. Peter the “prototype of papacity” i.e. all calls are from the church but the use of light clearly shows on the miraculous as Peter is not reflecting that light (2008, p. 300).
The religious theme and character of the artwork is clear in all three paintings. All three artists used light to depict the divinity and spirituality. Bernini used the light through the chapel window on his sculpture, Caravaggio and Rembrandt used light on their painting and a dark background. The theme is religious even though the stories are different. All the three works show a space where there is an amalgamation of the mortals with the divinity. In Bernini, it was the angel and St. Theresa, in Caravaggio St. Mathews following Christ and in Rembrandt it was Christ and mother Mary and Mary Magdalena. Further their art styles especially that of Caravaggio and Rembrandt were characteristically similar due to the tones of light used in their painting.
- Acton, M. (1997). Learning to look at paintings. New York: Routledge.
- Barber, J. (2008). The Road from Eden. Palo Alto, CA: Academica Press,LLC.
- Gardner, H., Kleiner, F. S., & Mamiya, C. J. (2006). Gardner’s art through the ages. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
- Harris, A. S. (2005). Seventeenth-century art & architecture. London: Laurence King Publishing.