Tag: Mannerism

Nec Spe, Nec Metu (Without Hope, Without Fear)

Posted February 22, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Art / 3 Comments

Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (1608)

A Religious art war was raging, between the Counter-Reformation and Protestants. Protestants believed that art was a distraction or an idol and should not be in the churches, one of the main defences for the Counter-Reformation was that not everyone can read and deserve to learn about religion too, thus the purpose of the art. The Counter-Reformation Church searched for authentic religious art with which to counter the threat of Protestantism, and for this task the artificial conventions of Mannerism, which had ruled art for almost a century, no longer seemed adequate, this was the beginning of the Baroque art movement. The Baroque style was encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church which had decided that the arts should communicate religious themes in direct and emotional involvement.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s intensely emotional realism and dramatic use of lighting had a formative influence on the Baroque school of painting. Caravaggio grow up been told to be a painter you need to paint like the Mannerists (by teacher and mannerist Simone Peterzano), though for Caravaggio he couldn’t paint pictures of paradise as he had no knowledge of these things. Caravaggio painted what he knew to be real.

Calling of Saint Matthew (1600)

With paintings like Calling of Saint Matthew, you see nothing of Jesus but his arm calling out to Saint Matthew. “Jesus saw a man named Matthew at his seat in the custom house, and said to him, “Follow me”, and Matthew rose and followed him.” (Matthew 9:9). If you look at the painting you can see it’s a dark and gritty place which you would not see if this painting came from the Mannerist era.

Caravaggio lived by the motto “Nec Spe, Nec Metu” (Without Hope, Without Fear) he believed himself a sinner and it came through in his paintings. Probably the best painting to reflect that would be “David with the Head of Goliath”. In this painting Caravaggio is the head of Goliath; it is very rare for a self portrait to depict the painter as the villain. On the sword that David is holding is inscribed H-AS OS, in Latin: Humilitas occidit superbiam (“Humility kills pride”)

David with the Head of Goliath (1610)