Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio9:00 AM
Incredulity of Saint Thomas by CaravaggioA little bit of history
Date: 1601 - 1602
Located in Sanssouci's Picture Gallery, Potsdam, Germany
After the Resurrection, Christ appeared among His apostles, but Saint Thomas was absent on this occasion. He doubts that Christ really appeared among them and challenges the Apostles with a skeptical answer: "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
Later on, Jesus appears once more in the middle of the Apostles and this time Saint Thomas is present. Christ tells him to touch His side as he said he would. Embarassed, Saint Thomas refused. Jesus then takes Thomas' hand and puts in His side. In the end, Jesus says "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Saint Thomas answers: "My Lord and my God!"
A little bit of technique
Caravaggio might have had an infamous reputation as a bar brawler, but he sure knew his Bible. Notice Christ's expression. He is not angry or impatient. He looks compassionately at Thomas.
Saint Thomas, on the other hand, has an expression of utter surprise and shock. I absolutely love this interpretation: "It could also be surprise at the realization that he, too, is also pierced. Indeed, St. Thomas appears to clutch his side as if he becomes aware of a wound at his side as well. And we who wince at this gritty depiction feel a wound at our side as well."1
All the Apostles head's form a circle, giving movement to the painting: we look at one, then to the other, until we reach Christ's wounded chest.
Isn't the presence and expression of the other Apostles amazing? I mean, they had already seen Christ Ressurected, but it's like they took this opportunity to observe more. Human beings are naturally curious and the Apostles were facing Jesus - the one whose actions, if written down, could fill the whole world with books.2
A little bit of enthusiasm
I always felt sorry for Saint Thomas in this episode. At the same time, I feared I might have done the same thing if I were in his situation. Isn't his attitude even praised nowadays?
But through Caravaggio's painting, we are reminded that Christ loves and cares about Thomas despite his incredulity. He even came back and made another apparition for his sake and for the sake of all doubting Thomas out there.
How do you feel about this painting? Do you like other of Caravaggio's paintings?