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Poetics of Blood In Caravaggio’s Paintings

The story of Caravaggio is a unique tale, but then again – what artists’ is not? As analyzed by David M. Stone, there is a little mystery in Caravaggio’s “story”, and blood plays a large role throughout. All things considered, I believe that Stone discusses too much about the blood, overanalyzing and exhausting the idea, while simultaneously leaving out key information about Caravaggio that is essential for the reader to draw conclusions about the blood itself. By not providing an analysis of the mindset of Caravaggio, Stone’s ideas are unconvincing.

At the beginning of the article, Stone dedicated a significant portion of his writing to explaining about the details of blood and its use in pulp fiction cinema, calligraphy, later novels and films, and even as a lipstick color.1 Instead of mentioning blood’s general conceptions, providing specific evidence about the blood related to Caravaggio would be more successful. Stone later suggests the idea of blood as a metaphor in Caravaggio’s work.2 I believe he could get less complicated with his suggestions and develop his claim by being more consistent and concise with his examples. I think it would be more successful for Stone to communicate the meaning cut-and-dry, instead of alluding to deeper meaning through metaphor.

Something I think that Stone could have touched on to add integrity to his claim is the experiences of Caravaggio – possibly in his early days, or even current days – and the events leading up to making his decisions to signing in blood. Stone doesn’t give us enough context to relate to Caravaggio or get insight to his approach and reasoning, which could have been an interesting addition to his article. One thing that’s been made clear is that Caravaggio never signed his paintings,3 and the fact that he did sign The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist is very fascinating. It makes the reader ask questions, like the obvious one – why? – and Stone did not answer them; I feel as if he dodged the mentioning of Caravaggio’s true reasoning and once again, could have dug deeper into Caravaggio’s thought process in order to offer potential reasoning for his decisions. There has to be some reason or some kind of conclusion Stone can offer about the Stone provides historic context and his evidence proves good for understanding the use of blood at that time, but given that readers are trying to figure out the real meaning and purpose behind the signature, then Caravaggio – who is the focus of the article – could have been talked about much more.

Stone’s approach to developing his claim relies heavily on the ordering and delivery of information. Although not completely terrible, it has the potential to be more effective since I feel some of the material does not lineup correctly to form a cohesive and easy-to-understand body. He could improve his clarity by organizing his evidence and giving examples in order. Stone’s stance is also sometimes unclear since he offers a few potential ideas of the meaning of the blood, but never outright makes a claim on his own behalf. Instead, several different possibilities are mentioned which leaves us uncertain about his view. Perhaps Stone could have strengthened his own claim by referencing other art historians who have also done work on Caravaggio.4 Using other historians’ philosophies and examples could really help form a stronger stance and article in general because by calling out ideas from other reputable historians, it gives validity and readers can get a better grasp and understanding of the material.

At the end of the day, Stone could have held my interest longer by providing less specific details about the blood and providing more information about the psychology and reasoning behind the blood instead. It would be interesting to know what Stone truly thinks was going through Caravaggio’s mind. A lot of ideas are alluded to in “Signature Killer: Caravaggio and the Poetics of Blood”, but the article would have been more effective with a single, strong claim, instead of multiple inconclusive concepts that are never fully explained and leave the reader making their own – and not always correct – assumptions.

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