It’s not unusual for me to be drawn across three galleries at the Met Museum when I spy a couple of Caravaggios in the distance. The Italian painter with a back-story worthy of an epic novel (including a murder, brawls and conflicts with patrons) created images with powerful narratives.
In paintings like “The Denial of Saint Peter” (at the Met) the story told in the picture is well known. To his contemporary audience, the purpose of his paintings was to retell important tales that were very much a part of their culture and common knowledge: “David and Goliath”; “Judith Beheading Holofernes”; “Rest on the Flight From Egypt” and many others didn’t need Wikipedia explanations — his audience knew the stories.
What happens when the familiar story is stripped away from the images? Whether it’s by a naïve viewer or by someone who simply allows the figures in the paintings to reveal alternative narratives? This is very exciting. An entire new world opens up. The three characters in deep conversation in “The Denial of Peter” share an intense connection. What are they talking about?
Every picture tells more than one story!