Caravaggio: The Calling of Saint Matthew (1599-1600)

(Church of St. Louis of the French, Rome, Italy)

A painting by the Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610). An amazing piece, this painting forms part a set of three paintings dedicated to saint Matthew the Apostle. The set was made for the Church of St. Louis of the French in Rome and cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, patron of Caravaggio, arranged the commission. The calling of saint Matthew comes from the Gospel of Matthew. According to the story, Matthew was a tax collector in Capernaum (a village in Northern Israel) when Jesus saw him: "And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him." (Matthew 9:9). The paintings shows Jesus and saint Peter entering a room with Jesus calling to Matthew - the group of 5 men around the table are illuminated by a beam of light. There is some discussing which of the five men is Matthew. Usually the man sitting in the middle is identified as Matthew (he is point to himself, asking 'Me?') but to others think the man in the middle is pointing to the man who has lowered his head. The light which illuminates the group of men can be seen as the light of God - Matthew is chosen by God himself. Painting from 1599-1600.

another painting with the same subject: Marinus van Reymerswale - The conversion of saint Matthew (1536)