• Caravaggio

Caravaggio's Crucifixion of Saint Andrew, Restored & On View May 17

Next Tues, 5/17 one of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s masterpieces, Caravaggio’s Crucifixion of Saint Andrew, 1606–7 will be back on view! After two years of conservation, this masterwork, the largest painting by Caravaggio in America, will be on view in the Reid Gallery (gallery 217), in honor of the CMA's centennial year.


Dean Yoder, conservator of paintings at the Cleveland Museum of Art with The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew, 1606-1607. Image by Joan Neubecker.

This is the first time the painting has been conserved since coming to the museum in 1976. In 2014, extensive treatment began on the work, whose original paint layer was obscured by clouded, cracked varnish and retouching. The cleaning of the painting was the subject of a Conservation in Focus exhibition during the summer of 2014, when a sophisticated paintings conservation lab was constructed in the museum’s Julia and Larry Pollack Focus Gallery, where visitors were able to watch the museum’s Conservator of Paintings Dean Yoder and ask questions. 

The painting depicts the martyrdom of Saint Andrew, who was sentenced to death for his missionary activity in Greece. While bound to the cross, he preached for two days to an increasingly sympathetic crowd. Finally pressured to release Andrew, his executioners were paralyzed while trying to untie him. Caravaggio portrays the moment when Andrew’s desire to be martyred has been fulfilled. In an unusual interpretation of the subject, Caravaggio presented the event as intimate and private rather than as a gruesome public spectacle. 

Caravaggio revolutionized Italian painting and influenced generations of artists with the naturalism of his figures and the powerful manner in which he used light and shadow. As a result of the conservation work, the artist’s clarity and depth of tone have returned to the picture. Visitors will see more detail in the restored masterpiece since cracking, discolored varnish and overpaint had obscured the artist’s rich color palette and subtle transitions between light and darkness. Another critical aspect of the conservation was the complete removal of older residues of an oil-containing varnish, which prevented penetration of the varnish into the paint layer. The new varnish provides a rich saturation, revealing Caravaggio’s nuanced color blending and refined paint application. The dramatic realism and luminosity of the figures in the restored painting will astonish and transfix visitors. 

Guest Author

Christopher Moore

The Cleveland Museum of Art

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