Review on Art: The Calling of Saint Matthew

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About this sample


Words: 468 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Oct 31, 2018

Words: 468|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Oct 31, 2018


The Calling of Saint Matthew (1599–1600)

Caravaggio’s technique was one that highlighted realism through which he remained faithful to truthful details and never beyond that normally seen. He created a type of realism that gripped the spectator’s attention to the symbolic meaning of the detailed content of the composition. His figures thus now became the artistic objects used in the creation of contrast between light and dark. His scenes are more often than not comprises of a serious of elaborated actions of events, thus reproducing scenes of realism. However, it is impossible to consider Caravaggio as just a realist and ignore his real innovation“…heightening of dramatic effect by the use of lighting that was always feigned and often highly artificial showing his absolute sense of chiaroscuro.” The subject matter of Caravaggio’s work does remain quite conventional in his preference for religious themes and thus his effects on “…theatrical realism may well be called Baroque.”

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The composition of the Calling of Saint Matthew

This masterpiece depicts the moment when Jesus Christ inspired Matthew to follow him to become an apostle. This painting was commissioned by Cardinal Matthew Contarelli, who provided resources and specific guidelines for the decoration of a chapel based on scenes from the life of Saint Matthew. [2] The Calling of Saint Matthew shows the passage in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 9:9), when Jesus went into the custom house, saw Matthew at his seat and called to him, "Follow me". According to the Holy Scriptures, Matthew rose and followed him.

The Calling of Saint Matthew can be divided into two parts. The figures on the right form a vertical rectangle while those on the left create the horizontal chunk. In this painting, Jesus is situated standing on the right-hand side of this painting and is almost fully covered by the apostle Peter, however, is notable by his extended hand.

Christ is pointing towards Levi, a tax-collector and is depicted as the highly visible bearded man wearing a dark-colored beret. Levi is placed well to the left-hand side of this painting, however, the viewer's attention is drawn to him by the hands of Jesus and Paul jointly pointing at him but also by the intensity of the light shining on his face. The other figures that appear in this painting are similar if not modeled by those persons in other of Caravaggio's works, such as Cardsharps painted earlier.

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The artist's use of light and shadow adds drama to this image with all the figures engulfed by a shadow with only the beaming light that shines across the wall and highlights the fact of Matthew and the seated group. Caravaggio brought this canvas to life using vivid colors, bold contrasts of yellow, reds, gold and greens including various intricate textures of fabric.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Review on Art: The Calling of Saint Matthew. (2018, October 26). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 20, 2024, from
“Review on Art: The Calling of Saint Matthew.” GradesFixer, 26 Oct. 2018,
Review on Art: The Calling of Saint Matthew. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 May 2024].
Review on Art: The Calling of Saint Matthew [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Oct 26 [cited 2024 May 20]. Available from:
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