i finally went to see the caravaggio: the final years exhibtion at the national gallery. there are 16 paintings all from the beginning of the seventeenth century. it really is worth a visit if you are anywhere near london. i was amazed at how busy it was - just as with the seeing salvation exhibition of a few years back it seems there is a real hunger to experience these religious paintings.
i remember reading chris curtis' response to the exhibition a few weeks back and how he described being moved by the works of art in a similar way to film. i found the same thing. some of the paintings were incredibly moving. looking at a picture on a postcard or even the exhibition book just doesn't have the same impact. there is one room for example with three paintings - the flagellation of christ which is a huge compelling piece with christ being lifted up to be tied to a pole before being whipped. his head is hung to one side in a pose very like the classic man of sorrows icon. then either side in the room is a painting of saint francis in meditation and on the other saint andrew being crucified. somehow together they drew me in. here is a picture of christ's suffering on my(our) behalf. saint francis' contemplation upon christ's death seems to call for me to reflect on its significance. if i take it seriously to what lengths will i go to follow christ - in the crucifixion of saint andrew is a stark reminder that for the apostles to follow christ was quite literally to take up your cross. how deep is my commitment and response to the love of christ? (it also made me think that sometimes in worship it is enough to set up one thing to contemplate - this room in itself would have been worth the visit.)
most of the paintings are from the gospels - the emmaus road, annunciation, beheading of john the baptist, the raising of lazarus, denial of peter and so on... the exhibition is running until 22 may.