IV CENTENARY OF THE DEATH OF CARAVAGGIO

IV CENTENARY OF THE DEATH OF CARAVAGGIO  

Michelangelo Merisi died early at the age of 38. His life was marked by illness and turmoil since he had to flee from one city to another. Despite these difficulties, he produced a wide range of paintings, which later became renowned masterpieces. To mark the fourth centenary of his death, the Philatelic and Numismatic Office presents a series of postage stamps featuring what is considered one of Caravaggio’s greatest masterpieces, The Deposition, a work commissioned by Girolamo Vittrice for his family chapel. Previously on display in the Chiesa Nuova in Rome and now in the Pinacoteca of the Vatican Museums, this large painting (300 cm x 203 cm) portrays what happened right before the Lord’s burial. Depicted in the forefront is Nicodemus, the sympathetic leader of the Jews who is shown lifting the body of Jesus after it had been taken down from the cross. Behind him are the historical witnesses of the Passion: Mary of Cleophas looking upwards to heaven, Mary Magdalene weeping, the Blessed Mother expressing profound grief, and the disciple John trying to draw close to the Lord one last time. Anyone seeing The Deposition cannot but notice the similarity to Michelangelo’s Pietà. The body of Jesus, just taken down from the cross, will be laid on the large stone clearly visible in the forefront. It is not the stone for closing the sepulchre, but the slab to be used for the funeral rites, the lapis unctionis (anointing stone). The stone is the real, silent protagonist of the painting. The corner of the marble slab points outward towards the viewer and brings to mind Psalm 118: “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” At this time Christ was the stone rejected by history.