Seeing and Touching… is Believing
Famous while he lived, and controversial for his tumultuous life, Caravaggio was best known for his religious art, notably his depiction of biblical characters as ordinary everyday people, he was renowned for his vivid realism. Typical of many famous artists, It wasn’t until after Caravaggios death that his work became famous.
One of his most famous Paintings is Doubting Thomas (Oil on canvas, (1602-3).
The story of the painting
After the Resurrection, Christ appeared among His apostles, but Saint Thomas was absent on this occasion. He doubts that Christ really appeared among them and challenges the Apostles with a skeptical answer:
“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
He demands evidence. Jesus shows him the wound caused by a Roman soldier’s lance before his crucifixion. He invites Thomas to put his finger on it. Caravaggio dramatically shows that Thomas soon casts aside all doubt.
In Christian history, and especially in the Easter story, no one has symbolized the “believer’s doubt” more than Jesus’ disciple Thomas. He has become such a paradigm of the kind of doubt that challenges the believer that the very quality has been attached to his name, and he has come down to us not as one whose doubt was resolved in faith and belief but as Doubting Thomas.
In Caravaggio painting it is not enough to only see, but to touch too. And this is expressed with wonder, boldness and the desire to really know. Instead of doubting Thomas, maybe the painting should be called “Seeking Thomas”, which so accurately expresses the seeker.
What I love about this painting is the dramatic composition, the lighting, the humanity of Jesus and the invitation to boldly pursue the human doubt that is in all mankind and that is creatively expressed through this painting.