He's just painted St. Paul by his horse, lying on the ground. But the horse makes the scene feel like a manger, so St. Paul at the moment of his conversion is Christ the child, Christ the infant, and yet his pose, with his arms outspread, is that of the Crucifixion. What Caravaggio has brilliantly telescoped into this image is the idea that at the moment of conversion Paul experiences...mystically the entire life of Christ in his mind's eye as he's blinded by the divine light of revelation. He's both Christ the child and Christ the crucified.
Monday, January 2, 2012
Both Child And Crucified
"The Conversion of St. Paul" by Italian renaissance master Caravaggio is well known to those who have attended St. John's continuing Christian education (and seventh grade New Testament) classes. Here's how it was described by Caravaggio biographer Andrew Graham-Dixon in a Dec. 1 podcast interview with one of the most cogent interviewers in the country, Sam Tanenhaus: