The Criticism about the Paintings
Despite the realistic quality of Cavaggario’s paintings, some of his patrons were skeptical about his interpretations of bible scenes. In St. Mathew and the Angel, the saint is seated on an armchair with his legs closed. An angel, who has a feminine figure with white wings, is using her fingers to guide the saint in writing what appears to be the first account of Jesus. She is clad in a loose cloth that runs to the ground. However, her right leg is exposed up to the waist. From the context of this painting, the angels seems to have bared her thigh intentionally in a seductive plot against the Saint. The cross-legged posture of Saint Mathew suggests that he is trying his best to avoid the angel’s advances. Although their bodies are close, the saint is leaning away from hers to avoid contact.
The original version of St. Mathew and the Angel was rejected by the patrons of San Luigi del Francesi because of its obscene depictions. Its quality was recommendable but according to his employers, it did not fit with religious purposes. Apart from eroticism, which is evident in this painting, the saint has bare feet and a wrinkled face. His appearance symbolizes poverty. Priests of the Church of San Luigi del Francesi felt that the man in this painting did not resemble a Saint.