Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
Saint Francis in Ecstasy, c. 1594–95
Oil on canvas, 36 3/8 x 50 1/4 in.
(92.4 x 127.6 cm)
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut. The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund
During a retreat into the wilderness, Saint Francis of Assisi experienced a miraculous vision that left his body marked by the stigmata, the wounds inflicted on Christ. Caravaggio shows Saint Francis transported by his ardent love of God into an ecstatic trance, swooning into the arms of an angel. The stigmata are visible on his chest, but not yet on his hands. Although the saint experiences Christ’s suffering, his body is not wracked in pain. Instead, the scene is marked by a profound calm and gentleness, as pain and love are joined together. The angel tenderly holds the Christlike saint in a way that reminds us of a Pietà. Its relatively small scale makes this a work for intimate contemplation. By emphasizing the saint’s physical and emotional response, the artist encourages our empathy.
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