22 February 2005
In the Guardian, Adrian Searle reaches out to Caravaggio: The best things about this painting are the bundlings of red, the drapery and sleeves, the flashes and slicks of light on armour, on foreheads and cheeks, in the otherwise almost unvarying gloom. The open mouths of her assailants are even darker and more vacuous, gasps sucking all the air from the painting. So much of Caravaggio is a great, bloody theatre of mortality (he was, we should remember, a contemporary of Shakespeare and Cervantes). Lazarus is raised, but at our eye level we are confronted by naked feet clattering among human bones. Light falls with equal clarity and purity on a beautifully executed sleeve, on a pitcher or a skull. But it is always measured against blood, dirt, violence, corruption, darkness. You can't even look at Portrait of a Knight of Malta, his chest emblazoned with a Templar's cross, one hand clasping his sword, the other fingering a rosary, without thinking about what's going on behind that implacable face, that stark white cross that pins him to the centre of the painting.