Supper at Emmaus

We had a lot of fun here on Museworthy a while back when I shared some of the bizarre search terms that brought visitors to this blog. Although that wackiness is still going strong, respectable inquiries still make up the majority I’m happy to say. Lately, my search terms column has been dominated by “Caravaggio” and that pleases me very much. Because Caravaggio is, well, Caravaggio – the Baroque master whose skills, technique, and commitment to “naturalism” continue to astound and inspire artists.

So I thought I’d be a good attentive blogger by responding in kind to the Caravaggio searchers and give them more of what they’re looking for. Let’s examine Caravaggio’s 1601 work Supper at Emmaus from The National Gallery in London. The painting depicts an event from the Gospel of Luke, in which two of Christ’s disciples discover that their resurrected lord had been in their dinner company unbeknownst to them, because he had taken on a “disguised” unrecognizable form. When Christ finally reveals himself to them, the moment is one of shock and disbelief. A very dramatic Biblical episode captured expertly by an artist who could do drama like no one else.

Artists who have struggled with foreshortening will no doubt marvel at what Caravaggio has done here. The gestural movements of the figures are done to perfection. The two outstretched arms are coming directly at us, and the figure on the left is pushing his elbows out as if to rise from his chair. Who needs 3D movies when we have Caravaggio’s masterful technique and visual acuity to draw us into the depth of the space. We feel like we are sitting right there at the table during the revelatory moment, or as if a camera snapped a picture and seized that one second of human reactions and gesticulations, both emotional and physical.

Caravaggio.emmaus.750pix

Also note that Caravaggio didn’t neglect the still life aspect of the scene – the meal on the table. That one basket is almost teetering over the edge. Throw in Caravaggio’s famously deft handling of light and shadow, and you have a stunningly powerful scene. For a little comparative art exercise, contrast Caravaggio’s piece with Velasquez’s version of the same story.

For more analysis of Supper at Emmaus, visit the Smarthistory video page of this work.

10 thoughts on “Supper at Emmaus

  1. coondude says:

    Wow, a succinct and well-worded comment on the genius of Caravaggio. Well done, Sir. Buon’ Natale.

    Date: Thu, 20 Dec 2012 03:57:45 +0000 To: fourcatsfour@msn.com

  2. Derek says:

    Hi luv

    I always enjoyed your post and its so informative and intelligence. This is what makes you a great person that you are. The painting is very spiritual and it reminded me of the Renaissance painting.

    It has been almost three years since I have read your blog and you shared it with us with honesty and brilliance in your part in the life and knowledge of a young lady who is brilliant at what she does so eloquent and poetic as well as cathartic.You are very talented visually and knwoedge wise and you are one lovely angel.

    I am now 63 years young and going 64, with three children and six grandchildren. God I feel old and I have overcame an awful albatross which was cancer. Its not easy battling a disease. All my children are all
    grown up. My youngest Peta is in college and does art modeling and she is pursuing her passion as a writer. She also enjoyed doing the art modeling to pay for her flat and school. At first I was totally against it mainly because as a parent I was concerned how people will judged her, but I slowly warmed it up thanks to my ex-wife who showed e a sketch of her and of course this blog made me see the light of day and I also want to thank Elaine for the advice she gave me in her post of your blog . I am now very proud of her now and I am now much closer to her and appreciate her inpact on artists just like you have with the artists you worked with.

    I enjoyed the photos like the inclined poses you did and the one sitting down by your friend Fred and it captures the grace the beauty the soul and the vulnerability of a great art model and you have an angelic look. And I just recently saw the portrait sketch that Elaine did of you that was a post done four years back on your birthday and it captured what a creation she did of you. She was a talented artist and captured something she created, and its like giving birth again to something she created as she dis when she had you in her body.You have a great mum spiritually and artistically. I don’t know she have anymore pieces of you but this one captures a beautiful creature she created.And I must say she is a talented artist herself.

    I thank you for sharing your thoughts and opinions and historical views and will continue to read your thoughts in the future you are doing a great job and I must suggest you should put all this inflromation and put iit in a book for future references I encourage you go for it luv. and do continue your love for the art profession as a great muse you turn out and God bless you and your family and
    a Happy Holidays to you until next time God Bless you great one.

    Luv
    Derek Tewey
    Brisbane, Australia

    • Elaine says:

      Derek,thank you for the kind words about the drawing I did of Claudia. She is an inspiration for all artists who have painted her. The love we have for our children is our inspiration and in many ways their happiness is what is most important in our lives. Please know that I had cancer many years ago and I am healthy now and living life to the fullest. Merry Christmas to you, Peta and family. Regards from New York City.

      • derek says:

        G’day Elaine

        How are you? how is everything with you? I have loved the piece you did of your lovely child and you certainly captured something that was strong and at the same time vulnerable and a mum’s love for her child, who is your greatest accomplishment just like Peta was with me and my ex. You and my ex made me see the light of day and I thank your daughter as well fir understanding.

        I wanted to ask you what was it like illustrating your child who is now abeautiful young woman she turned out and I thought it wa like you gave birth to her all overb again metaphorically speaking and have you done any illustrations of her other than the portrait you did on her birthday?

        I want to thank you and Claudia for making my relationship with my daughter to have a loving relationship. I thank yoiu from the bottom of my heart and Peta gives her regards to you. You are like a true inspiration as a parent.

        • artmodel says:

          Derek and Mom, can I jump into this conversation?? 😆 Just kidding.

          Derek – I didn’t know, but am so happy to hear, that your relationship with Peta has become strengthened over the years, If this blog, and reading about the closeness between my mother and I, had any small part in that, well then I am truly, truly, touched. And I can’t argue with you about my Mom being a warm, wonderful, loving person. She is 🙂

          You have indeed overcome an albatross in your battle with cancer. Clearly it has changed your perspective in a profound way. It’s evident in your comments that your heart is full of kindness, sensitivity, and an appreciation of great art. I’m honored to have you among my readers.

          Blessings to you and your whole family, during this holiday season.

          Claudia

  3. cauartprof says:

    Claudia,
    Love the post! The Caravaggio is inspiring for the foreshortening but as you point out the compositional elements are fantastic. As you suggested I took a minute to compare the Caravaggio Emmaus with the version by Velasquez. I was surprised to perceive multiple composition problems with the Velasquez? Let me say that I love his paint handling; his handling of edges is legendary. Are art historians convinced of the attribution of the Velasquez Emmaus? How could a painter that talented create the compositional debacle of the elbow appearing to be in the dinner bowl or the convergence of all three hands in the center of the picture? I just saw a painting of Philip IV attributed to the School of Velasquez at the Cincinnati Art Museum over Thanksgiving. It was spectacular in its paint handling. Is it possible that this Velasquez is a student copy? Mystified!
    Best from Atlanta
    Chris

    • artmodel says:

      Chris,

      You’re right about the “elbow in the dinner bowl” situation. I looked at it again after reading your comments. That is weird! Does seem odd for such a great master as Velasquez. As far as I know, that painting is attributed to him, not one of his students. But you raise a great point. The palette in that piece is lovely, and I like the Christ figure very much.

      Thanks for your terrific comments!

      Claudia

  4. Jennifer says:

    I must make a point of going to see the original next time I’m in London! (I tend to head for smaller, contemporary galleries or specific exhibitions at the larger ones, but another visit to the Nat Gal is clearly long overdue.)
    But before then, best wishes to you for what I’m sure will be a wonderful Christmas 🙂

    • artmodel says:

      Jennifer,

      I loved the National Gallery when I was there, though it was many years ago. I hope to visit again. They have an incredible collection.

      Merry Christmas wishes to you too!

      Claudia

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