Thursday, July 13, 2017

Love the beauty of Rome's great art? Thank the Protestants

By Elizabeth Lev
Michelangelo frescoed the side walls with an usual pairing of pictures — the right wall showed the Crucifixion of St. Peter, but the left wall illustrated the Conversion of Saul. 
The death of the “Prince of the Apostles” at the hands of Emperor Nero around the year 67 determined that Rome would be the seat of the Christian Church. The legacy of Peter saw plenty of upsets over the centuries—but the Protestant Reformation brought an entirely different challenge to the Petrine succession. The illustrations by [Martin] Luther’s friend Lucas Cranach have become gone down in history as the first Charlie Hebdo-type satire. The Protestants had struck at the root of the Catholic tree theologically, scripturally, historically, and artistically. On the artistic front, Church fought fire with fire, unleashing the towering inferno of Michelangelo. Caravaggio dared to redesign the images entirely. Where Michelangelo painted crowds, Caravaggio painted intimate seclusion; where Michelangelo had cobalt skies, Caravaggio painted encroaching darkness. [More]
The Conversion of Saul emphasized the intimacy of conversion. Caravaggio further reduced the number of figures to three. The inverted gymnast Jesus of Michelangelo is gone, and all that is left is His light, which, unnoticed by the animal or its master, beams down on Saul alone.