‘Saint Francis in Prayer’ was created by famous Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. The painting depicts St Francis in deep reflection. The subject is dressed in an old, torn robe; he looks at a skull with a face full of concern. At his side is a huge cross atop a rock.
Caravaggio loved painting religious subjects such as St Francis of Assisi, John the Baptist and St. Jerome. His subjects were alienated males, brooding and relatively different from others in the society, just like he was. ‘Saint Francis in Prayer’ shows that Saint Francis lived a life of humility like many did at the time. The piece, which has been reproduced several times, is currently displayed at the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome.
When ‘Saint Francis in Prayer’ was first painted
Since ‘Saint Francis in Prayer’ is unrecorded, it is impossible to differentiate the piece from later copies. Date estimates were made from related events that occurred around the time when the painting was first produced. For example, in 1963, Carravagio’s friend, Orazio Gentileschi, accused him of not returning a monk’s rob lent to him. The painting was connected to this incident, which led to speculation that the piece was produced between1602 to 1604. Others differed with this account. They instead estimated that the masterpiece was created in 1606 since the artists used a less painterly technique which was common at the time.
Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy
This piece depicts Saint Francis of Assisi receiving signs of Stigmata (wounds that were left on Christ’s body during crucifixion). It was the first of the Caravaggio’s religious canvasses which is thought to have been painted around 1595. At the time, Caravaggio lived with Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte and was referred to as ‘Del Monte’s Painter’. It is believed that Caravaggio painted ‘Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy’ at the behest of Del Monte.
Young Sick Bacchus
Caravaggio created the self-portrait painted between 1593 to1594 using a mirror. The portrait depicts an ailing subject. According to scientific researchers, he most likely suffered from a disease like malaria since his skin appeared jaundiced and the colour of his eyes indicate an active hepatic disease.
This is a very important painting for Caravaggio as it marks an important milestone for the artist. He produced Cardsharps when he was trying to create an independent identity as an artist. Before that, he was painting ‘flowers and fruit’ for Cavaliere Giuseppe Cesari d'Arpino.
Caravaggio was a gifted artist who lived ahead of his time. Not only did he create memorable pieces, he also introduced new techniques that other artists borrowed from. No wonder his works continues to draw praise long after they were created.