Just Your Average Mental Breakdown: Death of the Virgin

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Just Your Average Mental Breakdown
Artists Losing It
Curated by Drew Bierwirth

Caravaggio, Death of the Virgin, 1606

Caravaggio is such a bad-ass. I have to say that right now before I write anything else. He was commissioned to do this painting by a Vatican official for his family chapel in a public church. His piece was deemed unworthy of the site. Probably wise.

Though the technique is, as always, spot-on, the piece itself is brutal. The vivid reds don't inspire thoughts of calm, especially not in such a rough scene. Mary's entire form is completely lit, no one else getting the kind of focus she is. Her lolling head, hanging arm, and swollen, spread feet are disturbing at best, the emotions of the apostles around her just exacerbating the discomfort of the viewer. He's just too good.

I myself, looking at the piece, feel upset, then just plain awful as I see the extreme grief splashed across the apostles' faces. Caravaggio totally abandons religious iconography here, leaving nothing of the respectful representations in religious devotionals and virtually bereft of all holiness. She is human here.

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