Painting Altars

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The inspiration of Saint Mathew was one of the three altarpieces that Caravaggio was commissioned to paint by the Church of San Luigi del Francesi. Like St. Mathew and the Angel, which was described previously, the painting contains controversial content. For this piece, Caravaggio chose a male angel instead of a female one. An old man with a bald head and bare feet portrays St. Mathew. He is receiving instructions from the angel who uses his fingers to direct him on what to do. This piece was accepted alongside The Matrydom of St. Mathew, which was the first in the chronology of this series. It means that the inclusion of a partially nude female angel was more offending to the employers of Caravaggio than the old man depicting St. Mathew. According to the priests, the old man who is probably a beggar that Caravaggio encountered on the streets is too destitute to be saintly.