Caravaggio and Bill Henson
Category : Articles
Caravaggios Amor Vincit Omnia and Untitled #8 by controversial photographer Bill Henson can be compared in many different ways, their subject matter is very alike in the way they have both used a young naked male and similar elements. One of the most obvious elements used is lighting, Henson has used very specific lighting to suggest vulnerability, the body is in a dark light with the face slightly more brighter, whereas the young male painted as the Roman Cupid in Caravaggios painting is spotlit against a dark background which gives us the feeling that this is a joyful painting. Henson has used Chiaroscuro to create heavy shadows on the subject which increases the sense of drama in the photo. To add to the sense of drama, Henson has used the body to reinforce that dramatic look, the photo is shot from behind with the subject looking over their shoulder. This reinforces the suggestion of vulnerability as we are un aware of what is behind them, what theyre looking at over their shoulder and what caused them to look.
The subject looks frail and skinny, whereas in Caravaggios painting, the boy has muscles and his body does not give us a sense of weakness. He looks as though he is care free and just wanting to have fun in the way that he has one leg up and that cheeky grin on his face as his eyes look straight at us. At the boys feet are various objects, violin and lute, armour, coronet, square and compasses, pen and manuscript, bay leaves, and an astral globe. These all symbolise human activities such as music, learning, literature, astronomy and war. Henson has contrasted symbolism with lighting and his use of the body to enhance the vulnerability and cluelessness within the photo. We are unsure of the sex of the subject, unlike the boy in Amor Vincit Omnia, the young figures eyes arent directed at us, we are unaware of the figures thoughts, the nothingness in the background, Henson has used these to symbolise the anonymousness of the figure.
Amor Vincit Omnia was painted on an oil canvas, Caravaggio painted straight onto the canvas without drawing using the technique Alla prima,also known as ???direct painting??? or ???wet on wet??? oil painting this technique requires the artist to complete entire paintings in one session or two without waiting for the paint layers to dry completely. Caravaggio includes symbols that are meant to hint us as to whats going on, such as in the painting Bacchus c. 1597, by Caravaggio. Were presented with a middle aged male wearing a robe yet showing one side of his torso. The male is surrounded by fruit, also holding a large glass of wine with the bottle next to him. The fruit, robe and the full bottle of wine symbolise wealth, so were aware that this male must have been high class or even royalty. Whereas Hensons Untitled #8, Type C photograph leaves it entirely up to us to think of a story, leaving the background dark and blank forcing us to look at body language as a symbol. Both Henson and Caravaggio have used a technique called “chiaroscuro” which contrasts the light and dark to make their subjects look three dimensional. Henson has also used this technique to enhance the lighting in the image, making it stronger and more dramatic. Unlike Caravaggio, Henson has photographed the figure in Untitled #8 using a long exposure to create a well focused, sharp image. He sets up the photograph, placing the figure in such a way that the viewer has to create their own story as the subject remains anonymous, as he has done with his image Untitled #25 which depicts a girl emerging from a dark background, in a soft light. She looks worried but we are unaware of whats happened and who she is. Henson also creates large images which take a great deal of thoroughness, carefulness and time when it comes to producing in the dark room.