Friday, August 13, 2010

Miracle at Nain

Title: Miracle at Nain

Artist: Mario Minniti

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 245 x 320 cm

Date: c 1620

Location: The Regional Museum of Messina, Sicily.

Luke 7:11-17: Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out — the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry." Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people." This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

The widow weeps for the loss of her only child. She is now all alone in a hostile world; no family to care for her. Recognizing her intense pain, Jesus approaches the corpse on the plank. He touches the plank--an act that would render him ceremonially unclean, but that pictures his compassion. He tells the corpse to rise up. If there were no authority behind his words, the action would be blackly humorous or tragically misguided. But Jesus reveals the extent of his authority by confronting death.

This work identifies several characteristics of Minniti’s style as dense and rapid brushstrokes, the yield of the flesh, the choice of warm brown hues lit here and there by red and ocher. If the figure of Christ with outstretched arm to the boy remembers the position and gesture of the same subject painted by Caravaggio in Resurrection of Lazarus, it takes a different approach in the enveloping background which, although idealized, may contain a reference to the real landscape visible in Messina. In the painting, full of humor and enlivened by the late Mannerist Venetian tonality, we capture that special references to local artistic climate that between the second and third decade of the seventeenth century reflected in a more sedate turn-of-the-century naturalism.

Mario Minniti (December 1577 – November 1640) was an Italian artist active in Sicily after 1606. Very little is known of Minniti’s childhood, family life or education. His movements are better recorded after 1593, when, at the age of fifteen, he moved to Rome, following the death of his father. There he became the friend, collaborator and model of the Baroque painter Caravaggio. His main fame today is his identification, or proposed identification, as a model in many of Caravaggio's early works.

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