rosemary winslow

I was grabbed by this Caravaggio painting when I first came upon it for the dramatic contrast of dark and light and the central moment of crisis it catches--a young woman just turned away from her father toward the crowd in the street and suddenly awakened to an insight that remains a mystery to us. As she offers the mercies of giving drink to the thirsty and visiting one in prison, the literal and and the metaphoric act of giving her breast become fused. The painting calls into question the limits drawn by culture and the profound difficulty of deep love. The image seemed to catch innocence and wisdom simultaneously, critiquing the relative ease of offering mercy to strangers in a public scene set against a daughter's outrageous, and somewhat unwitting, offering of love which is fused with an incestuous act. The painting created a scandal in Renaissance, as the complex problem it suggests still does today.