SOME NOTES ON CARAVAGGIO

Thoughts from the Frontline

The two swindlers hustling a young man in the street in Caravaggio’s Cardsharps (Fig. 1) are a familiar scene that many of us have encountered in some dark alley or on the sidelines of a busy marketplace. It is a snapshot of reality.

Fig. 1. Caravaggio, The Cardsharps, oil on canvas, c.1595 Fig. 1. Caravaggio, The Cardsharps, oil on canvas, c.1595

It is not so much the realism of the details (such as the gloves with split fingers commonly used by cardsharps to feel marked cards) but the psychological interaction and features of the characters that we feel as true to our own experience. We can almost recognize these faces. They are like archetypes on the stage of life. The drama unfolds in a state of suspense between the thugs whose rugged and hardened faces stand in sharp contrast to the smooth and refined face of their victim, a well-bred young man whose comfortable and shielded life is mirrored…

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About ezekeriya

Zekeriya Eroglu Research Scholar The University of Chicago ezekeriya@uchicago.edu
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