Evocative U

(ee-vok'-uh-tiv) Bringing strong images, memories, or feelings to mind

Glenn Murray

Written by Glenn Murray. I design and build cool software. CV

Here's my latest think piece.

CaravaggioCallingMatthew2019

In Rome I stayed at the Gran Melia resort, right next to the Vatican, in the middle of Rome.

The resort was quite a find, with fabulous rooms, panoramic views, a full-featured spa, and a garden restuarant with incredible food.

Some of the worlds greatest art resides in churches. Caravaggio was commissioned to create three panels in the French Church of Saint Louis in Rome. Known for his extensive use of light and shadow, chiaroscuro, it takes seeing the paintings in the gloomy churches as they were meant to be displayed to appreciate the practical use of these effects. The natural light in the church falls on the subjects from the same directions as it does in the paintings, which heightens the drama.

My favorite, The Calling of St. Matthew, beautifully illustrates how Caravaggio was breaking from the standard depiction of subjects in religious tableaux. Jesus is barely noticeable on the right as he points at St. Matthew, in contrast to the dominant role portrayed in other paintings. There’s even some doubt as to which subject is St. Matthew, the older man or the one with his head down.

Caravaggio was a bit of a rogue, so gambling implements and beautiful young men in the paintings testify somewhat to his personal tastes. All these techniques contribute to a grittier realism that was a huge departure from idealized painting of the time, and a forerunner of many styles to follow.

Another fantastic venue for art is the mother church of the Jesuits, Il Gesu in Rome. The main ceiling fresco by Gaulli literally blasts the borders of art, which is a hallmark of the Baroque Style. The brilliantly colorful scene literally overflows the boundaries and the characters go from flat to sculpture. Truly a trompe l’oeil tour de force. The main altar ain’t half bad either.

The Chapel of Saint Francis Xavier, cofounder of the Jesuits, is incredibly ornate, with polychromatic marbles and over-the-top gold gilding. And yes, that is part of his right arm in the reliquary, an arm which baptized over 300,000 people.

Every day at 5:30 the Chapel of Saint Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, is the site of a music and light show culminating in the appearance of Ignatius himself, or at least his effigy. Actually, a panel depicting scenes of Ignatius’ life simply slides down to reveal the statue. The earnestness of this low-tech production is really quite charming, especially in today’s world of wham bam special effects. Thanks to my cousins Jill Rowan and Chloe Rowan for telling me about this show.

On my last trip to Rome, the Trevi Fountain was scaffolded in restoration. It was wonderful to see it freshly redone, all the easier to imagine Audrey Hepburn's frolicking in Roman Holiday.

Also of great interest was the Forum, Capitoline Hill and much more.