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Are you a sucker for scandal? You'll get a kick out of artist Caravaggio then, who never failed to shock and appall his audience.

So you find yourself all a-tingle when you hear of the mischievous wrongdoings? Us too. That's why we love Death of the Virgin, a painting Caravaggio took to the next level when he bypassed ordinary models and chose a prostitute, who was also his mistress, to sit for the portrait of the "virgin".  Saints alive!!!


No doubt this painting was totally rejected by the church that commissioned it. We do know, however, that the blasphemous masterpiece comes highly recommended by Peter Paul Rubens (he convinced the Duke of Mantua to buy it after it got dissed by the church). And it ended up at Louvre somehow so, not a total waste.


The reasons behind the raised eyebrows go far and beyond the choice of the model though. It wasn’t just that a courtesan was playing the Virgin Mary. It was also how the whole scene was so real. No frills and no-nonsense. The red curtain at the top of the canvas adds an element of stage-like drama to this picture of grief and mourning, sure. But before this everyone was used to seeing Mary marked by some element of divinity like a halo, crown, fabulous outfit, or gang of angels.


Caravaggio chose to strip a religious scene down to bare essentials, making it so real and relatable that it seemed almost crude. The mother of Christ is lain down with her swollen legs and bare feet, and her dress unceremoniously unlaced at the bodice. Hollowed out of its holy metaphors, which earlier artists like Robert Campin so devotedly imbued in paintings like The Merode Altarpiece, this work makes the Mother of God seem like just another beezy. How are we supposed to know she’s better than us? Had the painting not been titled Death of the Virgin it would’ve seemed like the death of any old Jill. Or Mary.



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Here is what Wikipedia says about Death of the Virgin (Caravaggio)

Death of the Virgin (1606) is a painting by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio depicting the death of the Virgin Mary. It is part of the permanent collection of the Musée du Louvre, in Paris.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Death of the Virgin (Caravaggio)

Comments (1)

pogo agogo

Interesting, I wonder why the church didn't like it!