To be a reactionary is to understand that man is a problem without a human solution.
Ser reaccionario es comprender que el hombre es un problema sin solución humana.” —
Nicolás Gómez Dávila (“Don Colacho”). Escolios a un Texto Implícito: Selección, p. 381.
For the third week of lectures in Visual Cultures, we were given our first assignment; to go to an exhibition and analyse any work therein.
I chose The Taking Of Christ by Caravaggio in the National Gallery, an easy choice because it is arguably the gallery’s most famous painting. I had studied it casually before and always liked it, however my new studies in Visual Cultures armed me with a purpose I didn’t have before.
I saw contrasts beyond Caravaggio’s bold use of Chiaroscuro and found new dualities and meanings. Above is the self-annotated painting, I have highlighted the movements present within the painting among other things.
Most of the painting flows right to left, following the direction of the incremental light but also of colour which flows from black to a variety. The only contraction is that of Christ, whose arms push outwards, against the current of movement.
Furthering that, if we look at the contrast between the expressions contained within the hands of Jesus and his face, we see an illustrated example of the battle between the Divine and the Human. His face is one of calm resignation but his hands are twisted together in a pleading gesture; this is at the beginning of The Passion and it is body throughout, that proves the human part of him.
Of course Caravaggio is depicted himself, in the corner, brandishing a light and illuminating all this. However without my notes, I don’t know if I would have noticed all the layers within this painting; illumination or not.
It is over 20 years since the rediscovery of Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ at St. Ignatius House of Writers, Lower Lesson Street, Dublin. The Irish Jesuits and Mr. Sergio Benedetti, Senior Conservator, National Gallery of Ireland kept its existence quiet for over a year until a leak of the story by the Rome daily Il Messaggero in April 1993.
The story behind the rediscovery of Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ begins with the purchase by Marie Lea-Wilson of a painting attributed to a Dutch artist, Gerard Von Honthorst, entitled The Betrayal of Christ. Honthorst was a Dutch follower of Caravaggio, and the painting, with its new title, was thought to be his copy of a lost original by Caravaggio. Marie Lea-Wilson bought the painting through an agent at an estate sale in Scotland in the early 1920s.
The painting, heavily varnished by this time, was given by Dr. Marie Lea-Wilson (a paediatrician) to Fr. Thomas Finlay SJ sometime in the early 1930s (the year is unknown as no documentation exists-bad record-keeping!), in gratitude for his friendship after the murder of her husband in 1920 by the IRA. Fr Finlay was then living in the Jesuit House of Writers at 35 Lower Leeson St. In the Irish Jesuit Archives, there is a receipt dated 23 December 1963, which indicates that Dr. Marie Lea-Wilson had returned to her three packages of papers marked ‘Lea-Wilson’ previously in safe keeping of the Jesuit community (good record-keeping!).
Until its rediscovery as a Caravaggio, the painting hung opposite the fireplace in the Jesuit dining room, now the chapel. The nails for holding the picture are still visible. Suspicion that this painting might indeed be a lost Caravaggio had circulated for some years, and in 1990 the cleaning of the painting revealed its true provenance. Sergio Benedetti of the National Gallery was led to the discovery, when Fr Noel Barber, Superior, asked him about restoring some of the Leeson Street paintings.
The Taking of Christ was given on indefinite loan to the National Gallery of Ireland by the Jesuit Community, who acknowledge the generosity of the late Marie Lea-Wilson and unveiled by Sir Denis Mahon at the National Gallery of Ireland in November 1993.
Couple with guidebook reading map. Al Lago Maggiore travel poster.
Lake Maggiore (Lago Maggiore, lit. ‘Greater Lake’) is located on the south side of the Alps. It is the second largest lake in Italy in the Lombardy region and largest lake of the canton of Ticino, Switzerland. Lake Maggiore is the most westerly of the three great prealpine lakes of Italy, it extends for about 70 kilometres (43 miles) between Locarno and Arona.
Unidentified photographer, “Beauties of Today”, Cigarette card, Britain, ca. 1937