Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Caravaggio Interpretation

Exercise 8

I walk through the halls and gaze at the paintings along the ornate walls in the Palazzo Barberini. A distinct style of bright colors encircled by dramatic dark shadow catches my eye. I spy a Caravaggio. I have never seen this one before. The painting shows a boy wearing a grey tunic, blue pants and a white ruffled undershirt. He perches himself in a crouching position over a dim reflection and shows his profile as he looks down. Most of the painting is in shadow; his shirt has many more highlights than his face. He appears to be waxing the ground and then gazing into the reflection for some answer to solve his problems. He has a soft expression and his left hand melts into the floor. The expression seems mildly amused and genuinely interested. Caravaggio's placement of the body draws the viewer in and leads his/her gaze downwards with the boy’s. The harmonious balance of left and right differ from the upwardly skewed composition. From afar, the figure looks like he’s floating in midair. The effect pulls me closer as I yearn to see what he was seeing because clearly it consumed all of his body and thought. Without knowing what the painting was for, I would base this off a scene from Narcissus, someone who turns their reflection into an obsession with themselves. The boy does not want to leave and does not show any intention to.

After researching online, I concluded that my hypothesis holds true. The painting represents one of the few mythological pieces Caravaggio has ever painted and the title actually reads Narcisco alla Fonte. He painted it sometime between 1597 and 1599. As I flipped through information online, I came across numerous photos of the painting. I could not believe the difference in impression viewing the actual piece gave me. Many of the photos online showed exponentially more exposure and details I could not pick out in real life, were illuminated clearly. For example, I never saw the pond or the ground Narcissus sits on, nor did I see such a clear reflection or such bright colors. I believe the effect of the actual piece was more effective and added a level of mystery and intrigue into the painting. I strongly praise the skill and technique he employs does convey exactly what Prose states. A certain wonder appears in the face of Narcissus. This exact moment shows him discovering his reflection for the first time, not the second, not the third. But, the first, the life changing moment that leads to his demise.

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