Caravaggio and his time; friends, rivals and enemies is now showing at The National Museum of Western Art in Ueno Park in Tokyo. The exhibition has been put on to celebrate the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Italy and Japan, and features eleven Caravaggios and more than forty other paintings by contemporaries and rivals.
Caravaggio is famed for his use of chiarascuro and for bringing naturalistic interpretations to religious and mythological subjects in a brilliantly innovative and daring manner.
The London National Gallery`s Supper at Emmaus holds me spellbound every time I visit. The incredible detail in which the food is depicted, the hypnotising way the basket of fruit seems to balance right on the edge of the table, the three dimensionality created by the disciples` hands and elbows seeming at once to come right out of the canvas at us and recede into the background. Christ has no beard and looks like he is modelled on the local blacksmith. Powerful stuff. Caravaggio painted a second Supper at Emmaus a few years afterwards and it is this second version (from Milan`s Brera Museum) that is featured in Tokyo.
Walking through the exhibition is like walking into the tenebrous depths of a Caravaggio painting; the space is kept dark, the paintings sit on a background of red velvet and are highlighted in the muted illumination from lights both above and below.
A long-lost Caravaggio is being shown to the public for the first time ever here: Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy , it was found in a private collection in 2014 and identified as an original by Mina Gregori a Caravaggio expert.
The Uffizi Gallery`s Bacchus forms the poster image advertising the exhibition. Here is another of Caravaggio`s sultry, full-lipped young men, staring out at you with a languorous indolence and a face that whilst innocent has just an ironic hint of something more. These are paintings that grab your attention, invite you in and don`t easily let you go. Naturalism but with a dreamlike sense of mystery. Go see them if you can before it closes on June 12th!