St. John The Baptist Analysis

1116 Words5 Pages
One cathedral in Malta houses one of the most famous paintings of all time. It is the St. John’s Cathedral at Valletta and the painting was done by one Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio in 1608 as payment to the Pope for becoming a knight in Malta after being exiled from Rome (Stone 161). Surprisingly, it hangs on the oratory wall, the same spot where knighting and defrocking of the artist took place. No other work of art has ever had a more profound effect on me than the masterpiece, ‘The Beheading of John the Baptist’.
Born in 1571 in Northern Italy, Caravaggio’s life was not devoid of controversy. He had the habit of frequently getting into trouble with the police. In a brawl, he murdered his one-time friend in Rome three years before he
…show more content…
In the foreground, a shirtless executioner standing over him has already used the sword to slaughter him and now holds a long narrow knife ready to hack off his head from the torso. Asymmetry is easy to notice as most of the action is leaning on the left side of the painting leaving a huge space on the right that is filled with shadows. There is more lighting on the left side of the painting which brings more contrast. A young girl is holding a platter while bending over the executioner seemingly waiting for the head. Since she is wearing servant clothes she cannot be Salome the king’s daughter. Next to her is another older lady who seems to show compassion by the way she is holding her head. Though it is hard to pinpoint her exact status we are left with speculation whether she is the prison nurse or just another servant. What is crystal clear is that it must be someone who had grown fond of John (Stone 17). A man dressed in a green cloak stands to watch the ordeal and gives orders like pointing at the basket and this makes him the perfect jailor. He shows no ounce of mercy. In the background, two other prisoners are watching through a barred window. Since blood is not splattered everywhere, it follows that John did not struggle. How a single man is able to singlehandedly subdue and decapitate a fully grown man is hard to understand, but I think John
Open Document