Caravaggio: The Final Years 15/05/2005

From: Anon
Category: Exhibitions
Date: 16 May 2005


The Caravaggio exhibition at the National Gallery is one of the current superstars of the exhibition world. It has attracted crowds by the thousands, and for weeks now it has only been possible to view exhibitions if a place has been booked well in advance. Such advance tickets are now all sold out. A few tickets can be bought if you arrive at the National Gallery at the crack of dawn and are prepared to wait for your entry time.

I feel irritated by exhibitions like this. Not because they are bad or uninteresting or unimportant, but because there is so much to see and do but people are only attracted to the costly, recherche, hyped events.

Caravaggio suits such a scene, of course. He paints as he lived, dramatically. His story is a striking one. As many will know, he killed a man, and was pursued by the papal authorities for the crime. Yet over the years that followed he expressed himself through intense paintings of deeply religious scenes.

The exhibition rooms are very darkly lit, presumably so as to bring into extra relief the dramatic lighting in the canvasses. This I also find irritating. While it adds a sense of excitement to the crowds, and stuns them into silence in front of the great works, many details are missed (or am I just blind). These details are better seen on the postcards in the exhibition shop, or in the exhibition catalogue. Boring.

I am always ashamed by my need to cling onto and study the Exhibition Guide as I troop round these darkened rooms, and wonder at the weakness of my conviction that ignorance doesn't matter and that looking matters more. Hilariously, I felt pleased as I arrived in front of the painting of a Knight, made by Caravaggio as part of his quest for knighthood whih would win him papal pardon. The knight's outfit featured in 'The Kingdom of Heaven' which I had seen earlier in the week. An outfit which had shared the big screen with Orlando Bloom and Liam Neeson made sense to me.