The next picture is Danae (1636) by Rembrandt van Rijn, master of master painters, and he has bathed his story in a golden glow of light. To achieve this effect he has created a setting of great richness and splendour. The story is of one ofJupiter's amorous adventures, when he appears to Aegina in the form of fire. The bedroom into which he arrives has a vast golden bed with rich hangings and gilded carvings. The main colour of this scene is gold, as though lit by a brilliant fire that we cannot see. The only other notable colour is a rich red covered table. The cool colour of the pale sheets and pillows on the bed only makes the fiery glow look stronger. A masterful use of colour.
Caravaggio's Beheading of St John the Baptist (1607) is the largest painting he ever did, and I was lucky enough to see it soon after its restoration, when it was in the Santa Maria della Carmine, in Florence. It is very dramatic.The picture is divided into one very black half, with the other just a little lighter. The figures appear quite small, with the central characters of St John and the executioner spotlit, in effect. The predominant colours are variations on brown with a touch of dark blue, except for the flesh tones of the figures. There is one brilliant touch of colour, however, in the red cloak that has fallen to the floor from St John's body and looks like a great pool of blood. It is the only strong colour in the picture - a shocking red accent by the great dramatist of art.
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