THE CRUCIFIXION OF SAINT PETER CARAVAGGIO
My painting is The crucifixion of Saint Peter, painted by Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio and it’s a Baroque painting. It was painted in 1601, its dimensions are 2 meters and 30 centimetres per 1 meter and 75 centimetres. It is now in Rome and it belongs to the Basilica of Santa Maria Del Popolo. Caravaggio painted mainly for churches. The Crucifixion of Saint Peter and The conversion of Saint Paul, as the Carracci altarpiece, were commissioned in September 1600 by monsignor Tiberio Cerasi, who died shortly afterwards. Caravaggio’s original versions of both paintings were rejected and they passed into Cardinal Sannessio’s private collection. It represents the martyrdom of St. Peter. Peter asked for being crucified upside down, because he didn’t consider himself as important as Jesus Christ, who was crucified for the Christians´salvation and entrusted Saint Peter with the “edification” of his church. Peter was crucified in Rome, because he was preaching God´s salvation through his son Christ. This was different from the Roman religion, which was polytheistic. Emperor Nero ordered the persecution of the Christians. It was painted in oil on canvas. The insistence in the diagonals like in the cross, in Saint Peter’s position and the soldiers, confirm that it is a Baroque painting. These lines create movement and tension (instead of the horizontal and vertical lines of the Renaissance, which searched for calm and harmony). Caravaggio managed to reduce all the elements to the minimum required on this painting: only four characters, the light is reduced to an only lateral focus, there’s no space, no landscape in the background and no other spectators apart from ourselves.
The large canvas shows the Romans, their faces shielded, struggling to erect the cross of the elderly, but muscular St. Peter. Peter is heavier than his aged body would suggests, and his lifting requires the efforts of three men, as if the crime they are perpetrating was already weighting on them. But at the same time the painter shows their vulgarity. The bum of the Roman who is crouching in the foreground, the dirty feet, the wrinkles on the face of the man on the left and the old clothes are examples of this. The man backwards in the foreground is a foreshortened figure, which is another Baroque feature (not facing the audience, but backwards or in different positions, to create a sensation of depth.) Following the Baroque art style, the artist chose the greatest tension moment, with the soldiers pulling the strings, while Saint Peter is trying to get up of the cross. In this way the artist creates a great drama in the entire scene. Under Saint Peter’s feet there are some stones, which remember us the message of Christ: “You are Peter, and over this stone I shall build my Church”. This unites the resistance of the stone and the spiritual strength of the Saint, as pillar of the Church.
Warm colours dominate the painting. The dark style of lights and the clear lights contrasts favoured the drama. This contrast of lights and shadows is called tenebrism. Tenebrism is characterized by the violent contrast between light and shadow and a forced illumination, which mainly comes from a spotlight, creating a diagonal in the background. And finally and most important, Saint Peter directed his sight to someone or something outside of the painting. In order to understand the direction of his sight, you have to know the position of the painting in the Cerasi Chapel, where the painting forms a pair with the other Caravaggio’s painting commissioned by Tiberio Cerasi, The Conversion of Saint Paul. Between them, in the altar, illuminated by a third
painting, an “Annunciation of the Virgin” painted by Annibale Carracci. For this reason Saint Peter is looking to the altar´s crucifix.
ALEJANDRO TORRILLAS DE LA CAL 4º ESO A