N° 2 – St. Matthew and the Angel – Rome, October 2004
This is one of my absolute favorites. Probably in my top ten, if not top five. (Not surprisingly, it's part of my podcast, The BitterSweet Life's logo. St. Matthew and the Angel continues the story that began with The Calling. The Contarelli Chapel, where these two and another painting about the life of St. Matthew reside, was commissioned by a French cardinal whose first name was Matthieu (or Matteo in the italianized version) who loved the idea of glorifying his namesake.
What I love about this painting (besides the shock of orange of Matthew's robes against the sombre background and the weightlessness of the nevertheless heavy-looking angel) is that once again, Caravaggio captures a frozen moment so perfectly. St. Matthew has been inspired by the angel to write his gospel. He has no time to lose; he must transcribe it instantly. He doesn't even take the time to fully sit on his stool, but instead half-kneels clumsily upon it, causing it to nearly tip over into the viewer's space. Like so many of Caravaggio's paintings from this period onward, it paradoxically combines a flurry of activity and at the same time a sense of absolute stillness.