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The Ecstasy of Saint Francis (Caravaggio, 1595)


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Dates: 13/08/2017 - 13/08/2018

Location: Drama in Two Acts


A drama in two acts by John Senczuk

 “Quod me nutrit me destruit (that which nourishes me destroys me).”
        Motto on the putative portrait of Christopher Marlowe, 1585

While enjoying the distractions of a Roman bathhouse in the Ortaccio in the Autumn of 1595, an exiled English “tourist” (the playwright and spy, Kit Marlowe) encounters an aggressively handsome, yet fiery and temperamental young Milanese artist (known on the streets as M).
M is attracted to the pale, enigmatic stranger some years his senior, and the two men discover that they have much in common, not the least, philosophically (art, religion, politics, power … and boys).
Despite the protestations if his would-be lover and model (Mario), M invites Kit to stay with him in his studio at the Palazzo Madama, behind the Piazza Navona, and in return to model for his first ‘riligious’ painting The Ecstasy of Saint Francis, the name-saint of his new patron, the well-connected Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte.
Neither men, however, appear too concerned by  a weaselly Frenchman voyeuristically lurking in the shadows (in reality, Jacques Petit, on a secret mission from his master the infamous spy Anthony Bacon).

Tenebrism, in the history of Western painting, the use of extreme contrasts of light and dark in figurative compositions to heighten their dramatic effect. (The term is derived from the Latin tenebrae, “darkness.”) In tenebrist paintings, the figures are often portrayed against a background of intense darkness, but the figures themselves are illuminated by a bright, searching light that sets off their three-dimensional forms by a harsh but exquisitely controlled chiaroscuro. The technique was introduced by the Italian painter Caravaggio (1571–1610) and was taken up in the early 17th century by painters influenced by him, including the French painter Georges de La Tour, the Dutch painters Gerrit van Honthorst and Hendrik Terbrugghen, and the Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbarán.


Cover painting: Bathers at San Niccolo [detail] by Domenico Cresti (1559 -1638).