The paintings of Caravaggio in the church of St. Louis of the French (Rome, Italy)
Church of St. Louis of the French: Caravaggio Rome tour
Life of Caravaggio in Rome
Caravaggio lived in many different places and also had many different studios in Rome. One of his studios was in Vicolo del Divino Amore in the rione of Campo Marzio. It is said that Caravaggio had to make an opening in the ceiling because he needed the sunlight to go trough while he was painting but it seems more likely that it was necessary in order to paint a large canvas.
It was in this studio that Caravaggio painted the Madonna of Loreto depicting two pilgrims, a man and a woman, arriving at the entrance of the Holy House of Loreto, when the Virgin Mary appears. The painting is now in the Basilica of Sant’Agostino, in Piazza di Sant’Agostino in Rome. From the studio of Caravaggio in Vicolo del Divino Amore you can reach the Basilica of Sant’Agostino in about five minutes on foot.
Walking about one hundred meters from Vicolo del Divino Amore you’ll be in front of Palazzo di Firenze, a Renaissance palace in Campo Marzio, residence of the cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, ambassador of Florence to Rome and where probably the cardinal gave hospitality to Caravaggio, we don’t know for certain, but undoubtedly he frequented assiduously this residence.
We suggest the following walking itinerary to all tourists visiting Rome to see four paintings from Caravaggio: from his studio in Vicolo del Divino Amore, walk to Palazzo di Firenze and then to the Basilica of Sant’Agostino where you can admire the Madonna Of Loreto and last stop at the church of St. Louis of the French with the three masterpieces The Calling of Saint Matthew, The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew and The Inspiration of Saint Matthew.
St. Louis of the French – The Contarelli Chapel
From the church of Sant’Agostino, after a few meters, turning the corner, we’ll arrive at the Church of St. Louis of the French, the church par excellence of Caravaggio in Rome, the national church of the French. This church is located in one of the places of political power today but it was an important place at the time. From here you can see the Palazzo Madama, the former residence of Cardinal del Monte.
In the Cerasi Chapel of the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, Caravaggio did not paint all three artworks, but the altarpiece was made by Annibale Carracci. For the Contarelli chapel of the Church of St. Louis of France instead Caravaggio was commissioned all three canvases. The client was the Frenchman Mathieu Cointrel, Matteo Contarelli in Italian, and from his name one understands why the paintings are dealing with the life of St. Matthew: The Calling of Saint Matthew, The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew and The Inspiration of Saint Matthew.
Matthew Contarelli had been dead for a long time and the execution of the works which he had requested in his will was taking a very long time. They were the heirs who signed the contract with Caravaggio for the three artworks. The contract was very detailed and included tight deadlines and indeed Caravaggio completed the first two paintings just a few months later than the date specified in the contract.
The story of the third canvas installed in the church, The Inspiration of Saint Matthew, is very interesting. Caravaggio realized a first painting but it was rejected from the heirs because they did not like it. In the first version of the painting you could see that St. Matthew has a rather silly face while he was writing his gospel with an angel who is guiding his hand. St. Matthew seems to be a very rude man, who does not even know what he is doing, his face completely stunned, God chose him but he is the angel who is actually writing the gospel. In the second version of the painting St. Matthew is not rude, now looks like an ancient philosopher and the angel inspires him but does not guide his hand.
In The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew, we can see the self-portrait of Caravaggio. In the painting Caravaggio is looking at the martyrodom on the canvas and scared of what is going on is about to run away.
Also very interesting and controversial is the Calling of Saint Matthew. Here Caravaggio is inspired by the Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel, masterpiece of Michelangelo in Rome, with God pointing his finger at Adam to give him life. In Caravaggio’s painting Jesus is pointing at Matthew but, however, here the protagonist is not Christ but the window on the back. First of all it is not clear if the scene is set inside or outside the house.
The story is well known. Matthew was a publican, that is a tax collector, and in Caravaggio’s painting we see him collecting taxis at his desk. Jesus comes along with St. Peter and is pointing his finger at Matthew, a gesture that is amplified by the light of salvation coming from outside the canvas. But who is St. Matthew in the painting? There is a doubt about it. Some say that Matthew is the one who point at himself. A natural gesture: Jesus invites him to leave everything to go with him so it would be the natural reaction of a man saying “Who? Me?”. Others say, however, that the man in the picture is not pointing at himself but at the person by his side as if he were saying”Not me but him, right?”. Or San Matthew could be the man with glasses who’s checking what his assistants are doing.
Time is important while touring Rome so make a reservation with Tiber Limousine Service and take a tour of Rome and one of our professional English-speaking drivers will take you rapidly wherever you want in Rome, in the comfort of a luxury Mercedes-Benz car. For example you can choose a private tour of Rome on the footsteps of Caravaggio. In this tour you can visit the highlights of Rome and the churches where the Caravaggio’s masterpieces are installed.
Here is an itinerary that you can include in our full day private tour of Rome with three churches and six of the most famous paintings by Caravaggio:
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