Revelations: The Seven Works of Mercy

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Revelations
Curated by Arsam Yazdani

Caravaggio, The Seven Works of Mercy, 1607

The seven corporal works of mercy are as follows: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, harbour the harbourless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. Caravaggio shows each here in his definitive chiaroscuro style.

Caravaggio developed his style through many hardships and expressed his suffering through his art. This piece captures a tone that makes all of the figures meld together in one snake-like, upward movement. The setting of the painting is an interesting choice as well, as he could have painted seven different scenes rather than one containing them all. By doing this, he makes the works meld into one grand act, one true moment of true benevolence. 

These poor beggars in the piece were clearly cast out and left at the mercy of those who could do something to end their suffering. This really struck me as an odd thing to paint, so much pain and suffering in their faces when the man who painted them was living so large. Caravaggio shows his discipline and his humble upbringing, perhaps even his own inner suffering, to remind those around him that he is one of them. 

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