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Caravaggio. The Death of the Virgin. (1606).





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Caravaggio. The Death of the Virgin. (1606).

The picture was painted for the church Santa Maria della Scala in Trastevere in Rome. As many painting of Caravaggio it was refused by the church and was taken down to be preserved in the gallery of the duke of Mantoue. It is Rubens who it first rediscovers it and presents it to the public. The painting represents the anguish of the Virgin with Maria Magdalena in tear in the foreground, in the middle of the apostles of which St Peter and St John. The picture is all in height (3m 69), built on the downward diagonal from left to right. Lighting, typical of Caravaggio, is done by a beam of light coming from in top on the left. The artist uses a contrast between complementary, the green and the red to highlight the body and the clothes of the Virgin. The position of the head and the left arm of the Virgin indicates that the life left its person. The expression afflicted and painful of the faces of the apostles also states that there does not remain any hope. The scene is very realistic (what shocked certainly the church at the time), the body of the Virgin is not sacred, except for the fine aureole at the top of its head. The characters are not, or not easily identifiable, the artist seeks to give again an human dimension with protagonists often represented like icons. Work is powerful and daring in the composition and by the colors. The red and the orange are used like revolving colors in work. In fact hot colors do not express death but the life.
The point of view of the spectator is at the top as of principal characters. To see the body of the virgin the eyes should be lowered. If one follows the advance of the hottest colors, orange, red and yellow the glance goes up and the hanging with the top of the bed by its positioning and its folds, by its clearer colors to the top expresses the idea of rise towards the light.

The body of the Virgin is located on the lower tension field, between 2 natural points of interest. The higher tension field delimits the border between the scene and the hanging which occupies the top of pictorial space. The natural point of left superior interest indicates from which the light comes.
Pictorial space is divided into 3 quite distinct parts. The higher third is occupied by the hanging of which we will see than the role is rather particular. In bottom on the right the top of the body of the Virgin and Maria Magdalena are in a flooded zone of light. In the center the assistance is plunged in the half-light (to mean mourning).
The picture is built on the downward diagonal from left to right. This same diagonal indicates the source of the light which is being a beam concentrated in only one zone. The artist seems to have avoided carefully the downward lines, this one, on the top of work are especially rising and against the composition.

Details :
If we consider hanging top as an independent abstract work which do we see ? The draft of a face and a hair, a female human form which rises towards the sky. It is in detail and the decoration Caravaggio expresses the idea of rise.

The face of the Virgin seems alleviated. A fine halo appears in the top of its head. The position of the body of Maria Magdalena crying is contrary all to the other characters, it does not look at the Virgin it turns even the back to him. This choice in the composition expresses the feeling of abandonment, after the death of Virgin, Magdalena only feels and abandoned. About it in the new will nothing is really quite clear. Maria Magdalena is delivered demons by Jesus (Gospel according to Luc, VIII, 2) it appears to him after her resurrection (Gospel according to Mathew, XXVIII, 9), after her day before at the bottom of the Cross (Gospel according to Marc, XV, 40). Maria Magdalena was comparable as of the first times with a prostitude which scented the feet of Jesus and even with the adulteress that one wants to lapidate (Gospel according to Luc, VII, 37-38).
St Peter is recognized and St John but 2 apostles, in their pain, hides the face, difficult under these conditions of identifying them precisely.
Light :
The light is a luminous halation coming from in top on the left. It comes to be posed on the bodies of the 2 women, illuminating with the passage the skull of some apostles. This light is divine, it comes from in top, a natural light would light the painting in a side way.

Colors : Harmonize between hot colors.
Similar Painting.
Caravaggio. Adoration of the Shepherds. (1609).
Still a harmony between hot colors in the painting of the shepherds realized 3 years later. Always a divine light coming from the top but from right-hand side in this picture.

Caravaggio. The Madonna with the Snakes. (1606). 
Much realism also in the Madonna with the snakes painted the same year. The light always comes from in top but the pallet is contrasted, of the gray and from blue cold come to contrast with the red of clothing. This painting it also was refused by its silent partners.