This summer, visitors to the Dallas Museum of Art have the rare opportunity to see an extraordinary work by the Old Master painter Caravaggio. One of the most influential figures in the history of European art, he is renowned as one of the greatest Baroque painters of the 17th century along with Rubens, Velázquez, Rembrandt, and Poussin. Fewer than 10 paintings by Caravaggio are housed in the US, on view in the collections of only six museums.
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravggio, Martha and Mary Magdalene, c. 1598, oil and tempera on canvas, Detroit Institute of Arts, Gift of the Kresge Foundation and Mrs. Edsel B. Ford, 73.268.
Martha and Mary Magdalene (c. 1598), on loan to the DMA from the Detroit Institute of Arts, is a masterpiece from Caravaggio’s early career in Rome. The painting depicts Mary Magdalene, considered by the Catholic Church at the time to be a prostitute, experiencing a spiritual awakening as her sister Martha counts on her fingers the reasons she should convert. Caravaggio conveys the moment of Mary’s conversion—a challenging subject—through his treatment of light, which casts a divine glow on the reformed sinner.