"The Taking of Christ" was on loan to Boston College from Ireland in 1999. The Caravaggio painting was the basis for Jonathan Harr’s book, "The Lost Painting." I will discuss the controversy over the painting’s true identity, its provenance and my firsthand reactions.
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio had a great influence on the Baroque style of painting in the 17th century in Rome. His use of chiaroscuro (contrast between light and dark) and direct light coming from a source (window or lamp) are his trademarks.
Known as the "bad boy" of art, he was involved in brawls, resulting in injury and even death.
As there are approximately ninety paintings attributed to Caravaggio, scattered all over the world, I always find it a treat to see one of his masterpieces in person.
As I live in New England, I was privileged to visit the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College in 1999. The exhibit ran from February 1 – May 24th. I was so impressed with the availability of this painting and others in "Saints and Sinners, Caravaggio & the Baroque Image" exhibit I attended twice.
In Jonathan Harr’s book, "The Lost Painting" he explains how the painting may have been misattributed to a minor Dutch painter, Honthorst, thus causing a gap of ten years in tracing its provenance.
Caravaggio didn’t leave any sketches, so art historians believe he painted directly on canvas. His religious works were some of the most copied and "The Taking of Christ" (in particular) was no exception. This made the task of finding and identifying the original a daunting task.
Even a Russian count claimed to own the original, but it was disregarded as being such after experts examined photographs.
The original painting was given as a gift to the Jesuit Priests of Dublin, Ireland by pediatrician Marie Lea-Wilson in the early 1930s. It was hung in their dining room until it was rediscovered in 1990.
After the ‘lost’ Caravaggio was found, it was decided by the Jesuits that they would loan "The Taking of Christ" indefinitely to the National Gallery of Ireland, with full licensing rights to the reproduction of the painting on cards and posters.
Rightly so, the Jesuits would receive a full size framed quality art print to hang on the wall where the original Caravaggio hung. As the artist’s work is dark, after an art restorer cleaned the painting, the realistic scene of Christ with soldiers and a man (Caravaggio self portrait) carrying a lamp to illuminate the scene is one of most spectacular paintings in the history of art. I felt as though I could literally ‘walk’ into the painting and reach out and touch the soldier’s shiny armor.
I became a Caravaggio follower after seeing "The Entombment of Christ" also known as "The Deposition" (1604) from the Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome at the exhibit, "The Vatican Collections: The Papacy and Art" that ran at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY from February 26 – June 12, 1983.
The Vatican exhibit will be the subject of a future Art Appreciation article.
You can own a giclee print of Caravaggio's "The Deposition" available here from Allposters.com.
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You can own the book by Jonathan Harr, "The Lost Painting," available here from Amazon.com.