The first thing to strike us about this composition is the large horse which dominates the scene. It was rare for Caravaggio to make use of animals within his work and so to find such a beautifully painted one such as this is both surprising but also impressive. Traditionally, this genre has taken artists many years to master, and anything other than a high level will immediately look odd to even the most fleeting art follower. Below the horse is a male figure lied on the floor, with his arms wide open. The light is deliberately placed upon himself and the horse above, with a third figure being kept relatively in the dark. Caravaggio was an artist who liked to be aggressive with his lighting and would typically combine a perfect darkness with bright light within the same paintings. This had the impact of creating powerful atmospheres as well as leading our focus towards the key elements of each work. It would become the most notable part of his signature style and would influence many artists who followed on in the next few decades, both in Italy and across the rest of Europe.
One interesting element to this painting was that Caravaggio was completing a number of items for this Church is collaboration with another respected artist of the time, Annibale Carracci. They would therefore need to consider the styles of each other in order to ensure that everything within this building was consistent. This could have easily raised tensions and arguments, possibly through the clash of egos, but as far as we are aware, there were no real problems in their collaboration. Looking at events today, it still seems extraordinary that the Church had the funds and backing to draw on the services of these two masters, as well as that of Bernini who himself became involved in some of the sculptural and architectural matters. It is entirely fitting that the painting, Conversion on the Way to Damascus remains within the Church today, just as originally intended all those years ago.
This painting from 1601 can now be found at the Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome, Italy. It is a huge artwork for both the artist and also the Baroque genre, and stands at 230cm long, 175cm wide. The Catholic Church that houses this painting boasts an impressive collection of work. Some of the great names to be found here include the likes of Raphael, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Guillaume de Marcillat and Donato Bramante, to name just a few (see also Assumption of the Virgin Mary by Annibale Carracci). Of those artists, it was Bernini who played the biggest role of all, actually becoming involved in the renovation of the interior, allowing him to implement his own style across several areas of the building. He would make use of his large studio in order to complete a good variety of artistic projects within the Church over a number of years and this structure remains one of the key parts of his own career.