Sometimes masterpieces are better appreciated outside of Paris. If you’re in the Louvre, you might miss a Carravaggio altogether as you jostle through the crowds toward Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. This is why I was really thrilled to see two recently rediscovered Carravaggio’s “Pilgrimage of Our Lord to Emmaus” and “St. Thomas Putting his Finger on Christ’s Wound”in a locale far removed from Paris: the tranquil Touraine town called Loches.
Only since last October have the two paintings been on exhibit in the Loches’ Chancellory. The exhibit will continue through May 30th. It’s only been a year since the verification of the two paintings as authentic Carravaggios made international headlines. They had been stored in a choir loft of a local church and the only reason that anyone had bothered to brush off the dust was to show a curious visitor the Phillipe de Bethune coat-of-arms that decorated one of the picture frames.
Loches is making up for lost time, having given “Pilgrimage of Our Lord to Emmaus” and “St. Thomas Putting his finger on Christ’s Wound” a showroom they deserve. To enter the exhibit, you must walk behind a heavy curtain. The room is windowless and low lit so that you have very few distractions from reflecting on the two works of Michelangelo Merisi aka Carravaggio born in 1571 either in Carravaggio or in Milan.
The written commentary explains how the two paintings differ in obvious ways from the very similar scenes “Supper at Emmaus” at the National Gallery in London and “The Incredulity of Thomas” at the San Souci in Potsdam. I will leave those differences for you to discover when you stand face to face with two extraordinary paintings.
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Of the two paintings, the story of “Doubting Thomas” is bound to hit home for those familiar with Thomas, the apostle who could not believe his own eyes when Christ reappeared after death. This scene of him placing his finger in Christ’s gaping wound might appear banal in a 21st century world where we proudly show off our battle wounds – but if you look at this in the perspective of hundreds of years of the Christ image being shown ethereal or in majesty on cathedral facades – and flash forward to the almost phantom-like figure being probed by a mere mortal – well it had to be outrageously brash in those days. And the skepticism! If ever creased foreheads could better represent skepticism and doubt. These paintings invite you to gaze not only at the canvas but to look deep into your own soul. What better place than in such intimate surroundings as the Chancellory of Loches, in the heart of France, the Touraine.
Exposition « Les Caravage de Philippe de Béthune… »
La Cène à Emmaüs & L’incrédulité de Saint-Thomas
Open till 31 mai 2007 à la Chancellerie de Loches :
Wed, Thurs, Fri 2 pm to 5 pm
Sat and Sun 10 am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 5 pm
Tickets Adults: :3 €. Free for childen under 12.