“A completely satisfying visual [and aural] experience”

The Supper at Emmaus is the subject. It was painted by both Titian and Caraveggio. In this, her latest art appreciation podcast Helena compares and contrasts those two masterpieces.

It is a stunning piece of art history/art criticism/art appreciation. I (David) have several “commercial” art history/art appreciation courses from The Great Courses, the highly regarded American online educational enterprise. Their courses are taught by top-flight Smithsonian Institute and American university professors and art historians. Helena’s is better.

Constable once said, “we see nothing till we truly understand it.”  Thanks to what Helena’s done in this podcast – and her delivery is another joy, by the way – I now understand those two paintings. And because I understand them I am at last “seeing” them.

The two paintings can be seen online. The Titian Supper at Emmaus is at the Lourvre. The Caravaggio is at the National Gallery. My strong recommendation would be to “bring up” the two paintings and look at them as Helena talks about them. She talks about the Titian Supper at Emmaus first. Then the Caravaggio.


“a completely satisfying visual experience”

“the colours of their clothes root them in the earth”

“Christ appears to come from and belong to another world”

“the humorous subplot beneath the table”

“an element of interest and humour”

“a sense of the architecture of the building”

“sense of order and balance”

“the column and the table form the shape of the cross”

“the Christ of history and the Christ of here and now”

“there is still a sense of remoteness about the painting

we can’t get very close to it, we can’t participate in it”

“it’s a painting you want to spend time with”

“the contrast is striking”

“he depicts the most dramatic moment in the story”

“by picture cropping he gives us close-ups of the disciples and Christ”

“we focus our attention on their reactions even more”

“in Titian you’re permitted freely to wander round the painting”

“Caravaggio isn’t just a brilliant artist, he’s a brilliant director”

“it’s difficult to look at this painting with an air of detachment”

“the boundary between the picture world and the viewer’s space”

“Caravaggio doesn’t want his characters to be comfortable in the world of the canvas”

“they’ve got nowhere to go except towards us”

“It’s the light that gives them birth, a light that animates them”

“they come forward out of the darkness, like actors on a stage”

“we are transformed from being spectators to being participants”

“all Caravaggio’s works remain unfinished until the viewer is present”

“an uncanny sense of presence and reality”

“why Caravaggio’s art was seen as being so radical”



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