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Caravaggio’s "Crucifixion of St. Andrew" : from the abstraction of the law to the afflicted body Karabeg, Jasmina


This thesis examines the "Crucifixion of St. Andrew" (1607) painted by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1573-1610) during his first sojourn in Naples. This painting was probably commissioned by Conde de Benavente, who was viceroy o f Neapolitan kingdom, at this time part of the Spanish imperial state. The unusual choice o f Latin cross depicted in this painting links the image to the debates about Andrew's martyrdom that circulated at the end of sixteenth and the beginning o f seventeenth centuries, especially through the writing of Justus Lipsius. Seeking to mark the presence of Spanish authority through the veneration of Andrew, a saint related both to the royal family and to local sites and practices of worship, the image produces a site of exchange between the space of Neapolitan streets and the realm of sacred representation. However, this exchange with the space of the street gives new vectors of meaning to the historia of Andrew's death. As this apocryphal story provides the account of the sudden paralysis of the executioner's body, and through this physical immobility points to the suspension of executive power, the link to the urban space of Naples produces dangerous ambiguities of meaning. These ambiguities are concentrated in the figure of the woman with the goitre, depicted watching the crucifixion and as the only protagonist who fully understands the significance of this event. The materiality of the woman's body inscribes her as a migrant to the city, linking her to the spaces of the street and the market. It is precisely these volatile spaces that presented an uncontrollable threat of riots. My thesis examines these multiple conjunctions of the image in relation to the threat of riot, which indeed regularly occurred in Naples. Both the requests for institutional reforms in Naples, often linked to the uprisings in the city, and the Spanish political doctrine found their bases in ancient philosophy. While the formulations of Spanish statecraft sought to contain this thought and enable its deployment by the state, its links with the uprisings demonstrate forcefully the inability of such containment. I conclude that Caravaggio's painting shows similar disjunctures, producing a highly ambiguous narrative, which displaces urban conflicts into the realm o f religious painting.

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