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The Calling of St. Mathew Painting


The Calling of St.Mathew painting is placed in the Lowe Art Museum Miami; is a masterpiece by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, depicting the moment at which Jesus Christ inspires Matthew to follow him. It was completed in 1599–1600 for the Contarelli Chapel. The subject matter of the painting is religious which describes the story of Gospel Mathew. According to Mathew 9:9 in the Bible, “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.”. Mathew is sitting at the table with four more other men while Saint Peter and Jesus Christ have entered the room. On the faces of men, a beam of light is illuminated facing Jesus Christ.


There is some debate over the identity of Mathew in the painting; some writers call the born man Mathew while the head of the young man is slumped at the table. Some writers describe the painting as ambiguous due to the identity of Christ as well; the hand of Jesus is mirrored in the image of Adams which is making a comparison between Jesus and Adams. There are no animals, but only people in the painting; The three adjacent Caravaggio canvases in the Contarelli chapel represent a decisive shift from the idealizing Mannerism of which d’Arpino was the last major practitioner. The presence of Christ is bringing true light into the dark. It is very different from other paintings of Mannerists. Three out of five tax collectors are looking up in surprise when the daily life pattern of actions is broken due to the arrival of Jesus and Saint Peter,

The painting is the symbol of the Baroque cultural movement which represents a great style of the painter. It is creating drama and intensity due to its deep and rich colors with intensely dark and light shadows. It captures the moment of spiritual awakening and spiritual revolution in the lives of people through the arrival of Jesus Christ. The painter Caravaggio had painted a passage from Bible when Mathew got up and followed Jesus. Christ is obviously the main figure here, but Mathew is somewhat lost; Christ is standing behind Saint Peter. Mathew is a tax collector and looking at the money they collected.

The light is moving diagonally down towards Mathew; the clothing of the characters is contemporary according to the era it was painted. The characteristic c of Caravaggio’s paintings is his intense naturalism. He creates vividness in the painting where bodies of weight and mass are all presented excellently. It looks astonishingly realistic; The hand describes that Christ is the second Adams. Christ brings salvation while Adams falls into sin; Peter is the founder of the church. There is also an issue of tension; the other figures are focusing on earthly matters rather than the spiritual message. It is all dedicated to Saint Mathew.

The painting is not an abstract art; it is painted in a most natural way by the painter. The background is looking beautiful with dark light and a window opening near the tax collectors. The artist is conveying the depth of spiritual message with the holy presence of Jesus Christ and Saint Mathew. This painting gives an impression to the viewers that the characters are holy and are all inspired by Jesus Christ’s presence. They are doing their routine work of counting money as well along with showing respect for Jesus.

The painting is extremely attractive and appropriate in discussing the subject matter. The religious message that is going to people had deeper meanings through the characters of the painting. The artist created this painting by keeping in mind his goal of bringing glory to Saint Mathew and Jesus Christ both of who are prominent figures in the paintings. The work is brilliantly expressing the theme of the artist which relates to the tax collectors’ meeting and the arrival of Jesus Christ with saint Mathew which turns the situation into a spiritual one bushing light of Christ. The pose of the characters is sitting and standing; tax collectors are sitting while Jesus is standing. Mathew is also sitting while counting money from his other hand. There is not much decoration in the painting; their gestures look calm and peaceful with the arrival of Jesus. It is a true example of naturalism with less abstraction; the part that draws the most attention is going off the finger of man staining towards the tax collectors.

The painting was meant to be freestanding in a spiritual context; the light condition is changing which affects the environment of the picture brilliantly. It was the most successful work of the artist, Caravaggio, in the 16th century.

The painting was created with oil on canvas medium. Its dimensions are

322 cm × 340 cm (127 in × 130 in). The inspiration of Saint Mathew is reflected in the picture brilliantly. The subject matter is the gospel of Mathew who is depicted by Caravaggio as a tax collector while Jesus Christ is pointing toward the figure of Mathew.

The faces of men are enlightened by a beam of visible light in the painting which creates a brilliant effect on the mind of viewers. This painting is unique from other paintings of the same era because it shows the life of Mathew as a hero to all men, the painting is depicting the moment immediately before a young Matthew raises his head to see Christ… In Romans 5:12–21, Paul argues that “just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

The dark space where tax collectors are sitting is enlightened by the arrival of Christ which is the strongest theme of the painting. The beam of light is representing Jesus, and the bare feet of tax collectors also represent that they are showing their respect and holiness to Jesus. This clear legibility is so different from many Mannerist paintings.


(2018). Retrieved 15 March 2018, from

(2018). Retrieved 15 March 2018, from…marinus…/calling-saint-matthew

Calling of Saint Matthew by Caravaggio: Analysis | (2018). Retrieved 15 March 2018, from

Caravaggio painting The Calling of Saint Matthew. (2018). ABC News. Retrieved 15 March 2018, from



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