Conversion on the Way to Damascus

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Conversion on the Way to Damascus, 1600-1601. Oil on canvas. Cerasi Chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610) was an Italian painter who greatly influenced the early baroque artistic movement. Baroque art is characterized by dramatic lighting, fine detail, and heightened movement to portray drama, tension, and majesty. Previous artists had idealized biblical scenes—often adding halos, flying angels, and otherworldly details. In his art, however, Caravaggio insisted on the realistic, faithful depiction of the human condition, both physical and emotional. Here Caravaggio shows the fallen Saul (later known as Paul) at the moment of his conversion to Christian faith. Bright light cascades from above across the horse and onto Paul’s outstretched figure. The composition somehow achieves both stillness and drama simultaneously. The difficult perspective seems to box in both the horse and its handler, as the creature’s sympathetic gaze meets Paul’s, connecting the two in emotion.

 

Conversion on the Way to Damascus

Changing one's beliefs and self-identity from one religion to another.

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