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From the "Vocation of Saint Matthew", Contarelli Chapel, S.Luigi dei Francesi, Rome. Pencil copy

I am interested in the composition of Caravaggio, before and more than the use of light and darkness, although clearly the two aspects of his work are interdependent. Making a copy of it is not only an exercise in drawing: it immediately becomes a study of the history of the work. I was passionate about it.   I worked on a bad reproduction that made the first figure from the left (and you see it!) as well as the figure of Jesus. There are also some obvious errors in the placement of the characters, but overall the result was satisfactory for me to the point of continuing with these copying exercises.     How I proceed in the copy and its proportions.  I look in the structure for the most significant geometries to which I then refer to position the figures. I start with a rough sketch, which I sharpen away until “the numbers don’t add up”. Absolutely not various lattices.  It wouldn’t be a drawing exercise anymore.

My copy is 45×46 cm. Almost irreverent considering the 322x 340 cm of the original! But it’s a game

Copia a matita de La Vocazione di San Matteo, Caravaggio

From "La Cena in Emmaus", Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan. China copy

Although realized in conditions of absolute precariousness (Caravaggio was escaping from a death sentence for murder) I find this work, for construction, realism, humanity, preferable to the painting of 1601 dedicated to the same Gospel episode.  I wanted to make a watercolor copy of it, which is a bit absurd ,  as the darkness of the scene.  And in fact, I derailed. To console myself, I enjoyed hatching with nib and bowing on a “prudential” scan of the initial “pencil”.  Instead of the dark background of the original I left the white of the sheet. Except for a few disproportions (the head of the innkeeper, sic!) the result left me quite satisfied.

Original painted format: 175×141 cm.                  My copy, taken from a small-format photograph, is 58×46 cm

da Caravaggio, copia a china de Cena in Emmaus

From "Incredulity of St. Thomas", Bildergalerie of Potsdam. Pencil copy

More or less while “copying” the Dinner in Emmaus I came across , on You Tube, in a masterful lesson of Don Paolo Scquizzato, an active priest, dedicated to Caravaggio’s “St. Thomas”.  The lesson invited us to focus, in the examination of the work, on the hands.   It was enough for me: I don’t think I’m the only “amateur” that looks for trouble in drawing hands, and for this reason that looks for trouble in wanting to insert hands everywhere!  The scene is decidedly raw, with those three subjects  on the wound of Christ and that finger forced into his chest.  For me it was above all a good exercise,  all hatch with micromines.

Copy size: 45×61 cm, from a reproduction half the size. Caravaggio’s original is 107×146 cm.

Incredutlità di San Tommaso, da Caravaggio, matita.

From "I Bari", Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth. Pencil copy

Last, for the moment, exercise on Caravaggio.  I Bari, a Caravaggio’s work of about 10 years before the Vocation of St. Matthew.  Youthful work, then. Still geometric composition, hand play, facial expressions.   For me excellent exercise, still especially hatching.    I had to completely invent the right sleeve of the young man who keeps the cards,.  That particular was unreadable in the reproduction I used.   Difficulties: the backgammon on the left and the dagger in the foreground.  In caravaggio’s painting that dagger seems to “come out” of the frame.  An effect difficult to make.   However, I had fun (just a little…) coloring the card (a 7 of hearts)  that the cheat keeps tucked into the pants.

My copy is 31.5 x 42.5 cm.    From a noticeably smaller reproduction.  Caravaggio’s original is 94×131.