Caravaggio the Conversion of St. Paul Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 10 April 2016

Caravaggio the Conversion of St. Paul

I believe Caravaggio’s take on “The Conversion of Saint Paul” was controversial because some believe the conversion was presented in a disrespectful manner. The 16th century was a time of Spiritual Reformation and I think it would have been less controversial if Saint Paul was presented in a more positive light (not knocked down to the ground). A lot of focus seems to lie on the horse as that takes up quite a bit of the painting.

However, Saint Paul is also highlighted as he lifts his hands in praise and surrenders to the Lord. Maybe such focus is placed on the horse to represent the power that knocked him down (literally and figuratively speaking). This painting is a perfect example of Baroque art because it contains the use of chiaroscuro where there is a significant contrast between the highlighted portions of the paintings and the dark shadows. I liked the “spotlight” reference noted in the Lecture as that just seems to be the perfect way to describe it. It’s almost as if the artist portrays a scene and highlights the main character in the play. That’s why I believe the horse must signify a message Caravaggio was trying to portray as he is highlighted just as much as Saint Paul was.

Saint Paul became a very prominenet Christian leader and according to the Testament he converted after encountering a resurrected Jesus on his way to Damascus, this would have been for any Christian an extremely Holy and divine moment, to have Jesu’s light shined upon you and in this picture nothing divine is represented, to the contrary, this is represented in a very vulgar way in which Caravaggio used figures of the likes of dubious origin and exteme commonality. Also, the horse takes on most of the painting, and the whole scene is very upclose to the viewer thus making it very realistic and perhaps unsuitable for the intended location which was the Cerasi chapel in Santa del Popolo.

This painting is a perfect example of the Baroque style due to its highly charged emotional and dramatic undertone as well as revolutionary and controversial in which the use of exaggerated motion, mannerism, as well as elaborate scenes. I believe that the Caravaggio’s painting, Conversion of St. Paul, illustrates someone coming to their senses and seeing the truth when they realize what must be done. From a religious aspect, when I look at this painting and see Saint Paul lying on the ground with his hands raised and eyes closed I get the impression that he is worshiping or thanking God for showing him the truth or maybe he had a vision of God. The bright colors, or shining light, that is over Paul is also symbolic of seeing “the truth”. The man standing in the background could possibly represent evil and the horse is stepping in front of him to protect Saint Paul. Also, it shows that the horse’s feet portray him as vulnerable.

The Conversion of St. Paul caused controversy is the 1600’s because it was very realistic and it was seen as an interpretation of the event of Paul’s conversion that was very important to the Christian community. The church was upset because Caravaggio made the horse occupy the majority of the space and the behind was a main focal point. They saw this as disrespectful and felt that Caravaggio saw Paul as unimportant.

Caravaggio’s work represents Baroque style. He was considered the most important Baroque painter in Italy. This painting is stimulating, supernatural, dramatic, overly expressive and theatrical. The use of light, the mixture of dark and bright colors, Paul’s facial expression, and the realism also give it a baroque touch. I believe this picture was so controversial in 1600’s because during that time religion was big and this picture doesn’t appear to be a good representation of the story behind it at least not in that era. The people believed that Paul was depicted as a nobody lying helplessly on his back on the ground.

The biggest part/ main focus in the picture was the horses behind which automatically took the focus from Paul and was seen as a sign of disrespect. It probably was seen as if the Caravaggio was making light of the conversion as if it was a joke although it wasn’t intended to look that way. I don’t think they really knew how to interpret the picture. The characteristics seen in the picture make it a perfect example of baroque art. Baroque art is dramatic, overly expressive and theatrical all of which you see in the painting. Another characteristic is the use of “chiaroscuro”- the strong contrast between light and shadowing as you see most of the horse and Paul in the light and the background shadowed out. The picture was done to show realism and realism is also a characteristic of baroque as the picture looks like a real scene in which the soldier fell off his horse. That type of style was used to give the viewer the ability to relate more to the story and the characters in which the picture does at least for me being able to visualize the story behind it.

The Conversion of Saint Paul was contraversal during the 1600’s. When it wa shown they found the painting to depict Saint Paul as not important and to be common. Also it was not liked that he had the horse be the main focus. To me when I look at his painting I seeSaint Paul on the ground with hs arms up to god, with Gods light hining onhim. Also his horse could be protecting him from the evil in the backround. Caravaggio was trying to show us a more realistic aspect of what Saint Paul going through. With Baroque the painting were more realistic, not mythical. This painting shows the contrast of light and darkness. It is good depiction of Baroque by having people be able to relate better to the story being told.

Caravaggio’s oil painted rendition of the Conversion of Saint Paul is the epitome of Baroque Art. This new artistic movement of the 1600’s was founded by Caravaggio, who has been renowned as the most important baroque painter in Italy. The style is exemplified in this particular piece through its realistic interpretation of the tale of Saint Paul which is rendered in a dramatic, theatrical, expressive manner and utilizes strong contrast between light and dark in the chiaroscuro technique.

Caravaggio’s commissioned rendition was controversially accepted by the members of the Cerasi chapel as his symbolic interpretation of the epiphany of the Jewish soldier was depicted with a focus on the human aspect of the instant realization as opposed to the divine and supernatural emphasis most likely expected by the church. The portrayal of Saint Paul on his back with his arms extended towards the sky in the shape of a crucifix after having apparently fallen from his horse is presented in a compositional form that draws viewer emphasis to the back end of the horse, and a common man on his back. This was interpreted by the commissioners as vulgar and disrespectful as they did not comprehend Caravaggio’s moving and emotional portrayal of the powerful moment of realization.

Free Caravaggio the Conversion of St. Paul Essay Sample


  • Subject:

  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 10 April 2016

  • Words:

  • Pages:

Let us write you a custom essay sample on Caravaggio the Conversion of St. Paul

for only $16.38 $13.9/page

your testimonials