Long-lost Caravaggio goes on display in Tokyo

08th March 2016

Re-emergence of a famous and treasured work is always certain to get the pulses of art lovers and experts racing with uncontrollable excitement, particularly if it's a work that has been hidden away from the public gaze for a long time.

Rediscovering a famous and iconic piece of art allows a view to consume and process the sight in front of them in a way they may never have considered before. In short, it allows people to add a new dimension to how they appreciate a piece.

That stirring mixture of passion and emotion is likely to be abundance among the visitors to Tokyo's National Museum of Western Art, which has provided the backdrop for a long-lost painting from the Italian master Caravaggio.

Original and best

This particular piece of work, which will be displayed at the museum until June 12th and is entitled Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy, was found in a private collection in 2014.

It was identified as an original by Mina Gregori, an Italian art historian and Caravaggio specialist, with the work previously only known through copies made by followers of the artist.

Experts have previously estimated there may be as many as 18 copies of the piece in existence, with the resonance of piece owing much to popular myths of the time.

According to the legend that provided the foundation for the painting, Christ's faithful female disciple Mary of Magdala moved to the south of France shortly after his death.

Mary then lived the life of a hermit, residing in a cave at Sainte-Baume near Aix-en-Provence. The story claims she was then transported seven times a day by angels into the presence of God.

Many artists had previously presented this story with a depiction of Mary ascending into multi-coloured clouds accompanied by angels, but this piece from Caravaggio takes a slightly different angle on the scene, choosing to show the supernatural account as an entirely interior experience.

In the piece, Magdalen sits alone amid a featureless, dark background, caught in a ray of light that carries the sort of intensity associated with a powerful celestial force.

The scene clearly depicts Magdalen as being thoroughly overcome by what is happening around her, with her head laid back and her eyes stained with tears.

Lasting legacy on show

The power behind the painting, which was completed in 1606, has helped to influence other similar works including Rubens and Simon Vouet.

Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy is one of 11 works to be put on display in this latest show in Tokyo, which will give visitors a valuable insight into the Italian's legacy.

Caravaggio and His Time: Friends, Rivals and Enemies, will also include a further 40 paintings by artists that cited him as an influence on their own work.  

Conveying the legacy of Caravaggio, who died in 1610, is undoubtedly a central theme of this exhibition, with the artist still widely viewed as one of the founders of baroque art.

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