Caravaggio 1573 – 1610

Supper at Emmaus (1601)

oil on canvas (139 × 195 cm) — 1601 Museum The National Gallery, London

Caravaggio biography

This work is linked to Luke 24:31

Tags: Emmaus

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Also known as Pilgrimage of Our Lord to Emmaus. The painting shows the moment the two men finally realize who has been talking to them all day: their deceased teacher.

The man on the right is generally believed to be Peter because of the pilgrim's shell on his clothes, in which case the man on the left is Cleophas - the only one mentioned in by name in Luke's version.

The still-life elements on the table have symbolic meanings. The bread and the wine obviously refer to the Eucharist that is taking place. The grapes in turn refer to the wine, the apples to the Fall of Man, and the pomegranates symbolize the Church. So the table is not an ordinary table but an altar.

Some think the fish-tail shaped shadow to the right of the fruit basket may be an Ichthys symbol (the Jesus fish).

The painting was commissioned by Ciriaco Mattei, a brother of cardinal Mattei in whose Roman palazzo Caravaggio lived at the time. In 1606, Caravaggio made another version of this painting. In 1601 he may very well have been inspired by this Emmaus by Titian.

Almost identical copies of this painting and of The Incredulity of Saint Thomas were found in a church in the French Loire town of Loches in 1999. After investigation, it was announced in 2006 that both works were authentic Caravaggios. Both contain the shield of arms of Philippe de Bethune, a friend of Caravaggio's and French ambassador in Rome. Records show that De Bethune acquired four paintings from his friend. Caravaggio often made several copies of his own paintings.

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