Sunday, September 18, 2016

Saint Matthew – Tax Man, Apostle, Evangelist, Martyr

Caravaggio, Calling of Saint Matthew (detail)
Italian, c. 1599-1600
Rome, Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, Contarelli Chapel














"As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, "Follow me."
And he got up and followed him.”
(Matthew 9:9-13)




Thus did Matthew (or Levi as he is called in the Gospel of Mark) become a disciple of Jesus. After the Ascension, Matthew is said to have found his ministry in spreading the good news of salvation to the regions of the Middle East and the Balkans. One of the Synoptic Gospels is attributed to him.







Matthew As An Evangelist

It is as one of the evangelists that Matthew first appears in art. Many of the surviving manuscript copies of the Gospels include so-called Evangelist Portraits, one for each of the four Gospels.


The Evangelists are usually shown seated in the act of writing, although sometimes they stand, holding their books.         


Some of the earliest "portraits" appear in the Gospel books created in Irish monasteries during the early Middle Ages.  In these the image is more a representation of a man than it is an attempt to depict a realistic human being.  The Irish manuscripts demonstrate the alternative, abstract, insular style indigenous to Northern Europe outside the former Roman Empire.

Saint Matthew
From the Gospels of Saint Gall
Irish, c. 750
Saint Gallen (SZ), Stiftsbibliothek
MS Cod. Sang. 51, Page 2


Saint Matthew Portrait
From the Book of Kells
Irish, c. 800
Dublin, Trinity College Old Library
MS 58, fol. 28v

Continental manuscripts, especially during the slightly later Carolingian and Ottonian periods, on the other hand, tried very hard to recreate human figures derived from the classical Roman tradition.  That tradition was very much alive on the eastern side of Europe, in the Byzantine Empire, which had once been the eastern part of the greater Roman Empire.  

Saint Matthew Writing
from the Ebbo Gospels
French (Reims), c. 816-835
Epernay, Bibliotheque municipale
 MS 1
This miniature demonstrates the attempted revival of Roman classicism that prevailed in the Carolingian Empire during the 9th century. 



Saint Matthew Writing
from the Gospels of Sainte-Aure
French, c. 850-875
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Arsenal 1171, fol. 17v



Saint Matthew Writing
from the Harley Golden Gospels
German (Aachen), c. 875-900
London, British Library
MS Harley 2788, fol. 13v



Saint Matthew At His Desk
from a Bible
Byzantine (Constantinople), 10th century
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Coislin 195, fol. 9v
This miniature shows the kind of classical painting which the Carolingian and Ottonian
artists attempted to emulate.


Saint Matthew
From the Codex Aureus of St. Emmeram
German (Munich), c. 975-1000
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
MS Clm 14000-879, fol. 16v


This tradition of the evangelist portrait carried right through the Middle Ages, in many artistic media and in both Eastern and Western Europe.

Saints Matthew and Luke
Byzantine Enamel, 11th century
Paris, Musée de Cluny, Musée national du Moyen Age


Saint Matthew
From Gospel Book of Otto III
German (Reichenau), c. 1000
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
MS Clm 4453, fol. 25v
Here we begin to see a blending of the classical tradition with the indigenous abstract tradition to create something new. 


Saint Matthew
From the main altar of the Abbey of Grandmont
French Enamel, c.1231
Paris, Musée du Louvre



Ugolino da Siena, Saint Matthew
Italian, c. 1330-1335
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Robert Lehman Collection



Andrea Orcagna, Saint Matthew with Scenes from His Life
Italian, c. 1367
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi


Giovanni di Benedetto and Workshop, Saint Matthew Writing
From a Missal
Italian, c. 1385-1390
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 757, fol. 185v


Michael Medovartsev, Saint Matthew Writing
From a Bible
Byzantine (Russian), c.1475-1500
London, British Library
MS Egerton 3045, fol. 10v
This shows how remarkably stable Byzantine iconography was, for the Russian painting is
very similar to the Greek painting of 500 years earlier.




Atelier of Jean Goujon, Saint Matthew
Wood Inlays from the Chapel of the Chateau d'Ecouen
French, 1548
Chantilly, Musée Condé  


Camillo Rusconi, Saint Matthew
Italian, c. 1708-1718
Rome, Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano



Jean-August-Dominique Ingres, Saint Matthew
French, c. 1800-1825
Paris, Musée du Louvre


Matthew and His Symbol 

The evangelists are frequently represented by their associated symbols.  These symbols are derived from, and related to, the four winged creatures, known as the Tetramorph, that stand at the throne of God in the vision of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:10) and in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 4:6-7).

Matthew’s symbol is unique. While the other Evangelists are associated with animal symbols (the eagle for John, the lion for Mark and the ox for Luke), Matthew’s symbol is an angel. So, his symbol serves a dual purpose, the angel is for Matthew both his symbol and his source of inspiration. Thus he is frequently shown receiving inspiration from an angel, his own symbol. This image accounts for the majority of representations of Saint Matthew from the early medieval through the Baroque periods. Only a sampling of the available works which use this theme are shown below.


The Evangelist Symbols
From the Book of Kells
Irish, c. 800
Dublin, Trinity College Old Library
MS 58, fol. 27v



Saint Matthew Writing
From a Gospel Book
French (St. Amand), c. 875-900
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 257, fol.13r


Christ in Majesty Surrounded by the Four Evangelists and Their Symbols
From the Gospels of the Sainte-Chapelle
German (Treves), c. 984
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 8851, fol. 1v



Saint Matthew
From the Book of Pericopes of Heinrich II
German (Reichenau), c. 1007-1012
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
MS Clm 4452, fol. 3v



Saint Matthew
From a Bible
German (Mainz), c. 1025-1050
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 275, fol. 3v



Saint Matthew
From the Mostyn Gospels
English (Gloucester), c. 1125-1135
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 777, fol. 3v



Saint Mattew Writing
from a Gospel Book
French (Meuse), c, 1150-1200
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliothek
MS KB 76 E 17, fol. 11v



Master of the Bible of Jean de Sy, Saint Matthew
 From Bible historiale by Guyart des Moulins
French, 1357
London, British Library
MS Royal 17 E VII, fol. 133v



Follower of Jean Fouquet, Saint Matthew Writing
From a Book of Hours
French (Tours), c.1470
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 74 G 28, fol. 17r



Alvise Vivarini, Saint Matthew
Italian, c. 1480
Venice, Gallerie dell'Accademia



Boccaccio Boccaccino, Saint Matthew
Italian, c. 1503
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi



Jean Bourdichon, Saint Matthew Writing
From Grandes heures of Anne de Bretagne
French (Tours), c. 1503-1508
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 9474, fol. 21v



Giovanni Gerolamo Savoldo, Saint Matthew and the Angel
Italian, c.1534
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art



Jean Goujon, Saint Matthew
From the Church of Saint Germain l'Auxerrois
French (Paris), c. 1544-1545
Paris, Musée du Louvre



Johannes Wierix after Maarten de Vos, Saint Matthew Writing
From Thesaurus Novi Testamenti elegantissimis iconibus expressus continens historias atque miracula do[mi] ni nostri Iesu Christi
Flemish, 1585
London, British Museum


After Pierre Mignard, Saint Matthew
French, c.1700
Versailles, Chateaux de Versailles et de Trianon



Nicolas Antoine Taunay, Saint Matthew and the Angel
French, c. 1810-1815
Saint-Lo, Musée des Beaux-Arts



Charles Lemeire, Angel of Saint Matthew from the Tetramorph
Maquette for decoration of the cupola of the Basilica of Saint Martin d'Ainay in Lyon
French, 1899-1900
Paris, Musée d'Orsay



Natalia Gontcharova, Saint Matthew
Costume design for the never danced Diaghilev ballet "Liturgie"
Russian, 1915-1927
Paris, Centre national d'art et de culture Georges-Pompidou
I am including this image in this category because the artist has conflated the angel and
St. Matthew into one image through the wing-like extensions of the figure's draperies.




Scenes From the Life of Matthew

Among images before the seventeenth century, scenes of Matthew's occupation and of his life-changing encounter with Jesus were less frequent than those that depict him as an evangelist. Although these do appear occasionally, they were nowhere near as popular a subject.



Detail:  The Calling of Matthew
From the Orations of Gregory Nazianzus
Greek, c. 879-882
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Grec 510, fol. 87v
This Byzantine manuscript shows scenes from the New Testament, including scenes of the calling of the Apostles.  The calling of Matthew is located in the center of the top row of images which is all that I have included here.  We can see Matthew, at his tax counting table, responding to Jesus, who stands to his right.



The Calling of Matthew
From Livre d'images de Madame Marie
Flemish (Hainault), c. 1285-1290
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquisition francaise 16251, fol. 69v


Master of the Coronation Book of Charles V, The Calling of Matthew
From Bible historiale of Guyart des Moulins
Paris, c. 1350-1356
London, British Library
MS Royal 19 D II, fol.426


Anonymous, The Calling of Matthew
From Bible historiale by Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), c. 1350-1356
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
Ms Francais 162, fol. 165



Marinus van Reymerswaele, Calling of Saint Matthew
Dutch, c.1530-1546
Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland


Enter Caravaggio

This situation changed after Caravaggio. In 1599 Caravaggio received the commission for paintings to decorate the Contarelli Chapel in the Roman church of San Luigi dei Francesi (Saint Louis of the French), not far from the Pantheon. All of them broke important ground, artistically, and none more so than the Calling of Saint Matthew.


Caravaggio, The Calling of Saint Matthew
Italian, 1599-1600
Rome, San Luigi dei Francesi, Contarelli Chapel


It is difficult now for us to imagine the impact that this painting had on the people of Caravaggio’s day. Its dramatic play of lights and darks, called chiaroscuro, had been developed by earlier artists, but had never been used with such a powerful, flickering effect. The faces and gestures of the figures seem to spring out of the dark.  The arrangement of lights and darks divides the composition into two triangles, each of which is centered on one of the two main protagonists, Jesus and Matthew.    

Caravaggio, The Calling of Saint Matthew (detail)
Italian, 1599-1600
Rome, San Luigi dei Francesi, Contarelli Chapel


Also dramatic is the issue of dress.   While Jesus and His companion appear to be wearing traditional “antique” dress, the contemporary dress worn by Matthew and his cronies is unexpected and moves the scene out of the realm of “somewhere back in time” to “right now”, which is a new and shocking idea.1   This transports the event into the present day and is a reminder that the call extends to us too.  It is as if Jesus had suddenly walked into one of our twenty-first century offices and said to us “Follow me!” 

Caravaggio, The Calling of Saint Matthew (detail)
Italian, 1599-1600
Rome, San Luigi dei Francesi, Contarelli Chapel


The other paintings for the Contarelli Chapel have similar effects of lighting, but they lack the contemporary “punch” of the Calling. They are the Inspiration of Saint Matthew, which is derived from the historical type of the evangelist portrait, shows Saint Matthew, half standing, half kneeling, at his writing bench, receiving inspiration from an angel, which is, of course, his traditional symbol.

Caravaggio, The Inspiration of Saint Matthew
Italian, 1600
Rome, San Luigi dei Francesi, Contarelli Chapel

The other is the violent Martyrdom of Saint Matthew, which virtually explodes out of the canvas on which it is painted. Horrified by the violent act of Saint Matthew’s attacker, the onlookers flee the scene. Some are in contemporary dress (circa 1600), while others are dressed in various “antique” styles.

At the center is the figure of Saint Matthew, clad in priestly vestments. Even as his hand is pulled upward by his executioner, who prepares to use the sword he carries in his right hand, an angel reaches from heaven with the palm of martyrdom, ready for the moment of Matthew’s death.

Caravaggio, The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew
Italian, 1600
Rome, San Luigi dei Francesi, Contarelli Chapel


These three paintings had a monumental impact on the history of art in the 17th century. Other artists borrowed various elements for their own work. Some adopted the strong chiaroscuro lighting, others the contemporary settings. Those in the immediate aftermath of Caravaggio (who died young only ten years after completing the Contarelli Chapel paintings) are often known by the group name of the Caravaggisti. 

One of the first (and best) of these was the young French artist, Valentin de Boulogne, who studied Caravaggio's work in Rome before himself dying young there.  His French patrons introduced the style to France, where it had a great influence.

Valentin de Boulogne. Saint Matthew and the Angel
French, c.1620-1632
Versailles, Chateaux de Versailles et de Trianon


But, nearly every artist in Europe was affected to some extent by these works in honor of Saint Matthew for many years to come.

Giovanni Battista Caracciolo, Calling of Saint Matthew (?)
Italian, c. 1625-1630
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
There is some debate about the subject of this painting recently purchased in 2016 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but in my opinion it does appear to be the Calling of Saint Matthew. In my reading Matthew is the figure on the right, shown from behind. There is definitely money on the table, which is being fingered by the youth with the red turban who is peering curiously around the figure of Jesus. Behind Jesus stands what is probably a disciple, possibly Peter.



Jacob Jordaens, The Four Evangelists
Flemish, c. 1625-1630
Paris, Musée du Louvre



Lambert Jacobszoon, Saint Matthew and the Angel
Dutch, c. 1630-1631
Rouen, Musée des Beaux-Arts


Simone Cantarini, Saint Matthew and the Angel
Italian, c.1645-1648
Washington, National Gallery of Art



Niccolo Tornioli, Conversion of Saint Matthew
Italian, c.1650-1652
Rouen, Musée des Beaux-Arts


Attributed to Charles Wautier, Calling of Saint Matthew
Flemish, c.1650
Toulouse, Musée des Augustins


Juan de Pareja, The Calling of Saint Matthew
Spanish, 1661
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado




Rembrandt, Saint Matthew and the Angel
Dutch, 1661
Paris, Musée du Louvre



Jacob Jordaens, Saint Matthew and Two Apostles
Flemish, c.1670
Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts




Scenes from the Life of Saint Matthew

Less frequently depicted are stories of Matthew's work as an Apostle following the Resurrection and Acension.  These apocryphal stories are found in the various Lives of the Saints but above all in the Legenda aurea or Golden Legend, which was one of the most popular books, outside of the Bible and the Books of Hours, of the medieval period.  Most of the stories focus on the confrontation between Saint Matthew and two magicians at the court of Candace, Queen of Ethiopia.  As the Golden Legend describes it:

"Matthew the apostle, preaching in Ethiopia, in the city that is said Nadaber, found there two enchanters named Zaroes and Arphaxat, which enchanted the men by their art, so that whom that they would, should seem that thy were prived of the health and office of their members. Which were so elevated in pride that they made them to be honoured as gods......
Then came before them a man that said that the enchanters were come with two dragons, which cast fire and sulphur by their mouths and nostrils, and slew all the men. Then the apostle garnished him with the sign of the cross and went out surely to them, and anon as these dragons saw him, anon they came and slept at his feet. Then said Matthew to the enchanters: Where is your craft? Awake ye them if ye may; and if I would pray our Lord, that which ye would have committed in me, I should soon execute on you. And when the people were assembled, he commanded the dragons that they should depart without hurting of any, and they went anon.....
anon a great noise arose, and a great weeping was made for the son of the king which was dead, and when these enchanters might not raise him, they made the king believe that he was ravished into the company of the gods, and that he should make to him a temple and an image. And then the foresaid eunuch, keeper of the queen Candace, made the enchanters to be kept, and sent for the apostle. And when the apostle was come he made his prayer and raised the king's son anon."2

Richard de Montbaston, Saint Matthew and the Magicians
From the Legenda aurea by Jacobus de Voragine
French (Paris), 1348
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 241, fol. 252v


Jacques de Besancon, Saint Matthew and the Magicians
From the Legenda aurea by Jacobus de Voragine
French (Paris), c.1480-1490
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 245, fol. 104





The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew

One further part of the iconography of Saint Matthew, which seems to be largely confined to Northern Europe, is that of his martyrdom.  With the exception of the extremely dramatic painting by Caravaggio discussed above, all the images which I have been able to find are from north of the Alps. Earlier images depict Saint Matthew being killed by someone using a sword, or a spear or an ax.  Later images often simply reference his martyrdom by showing him holding the weapon that killed him.


The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew
From a Picture Bible
French (St. Omer), c. 1190-1200
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 76 F 5, fol. 26v



The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew
From the Lives of the Saints by Wauchier de Denain
French (Paris), c.1225-1250
London, British Library
 MS Royal 20 D VI, fol. 30v


The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew
From a Psalter
German (Hildesheim), c. 1230-1240
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquisition latine 3102, fol. 3



Master of the Roman de Fauvel, The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew
From Vies des saints
French (Paris), 1300-1350
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 183, fol. 49


Saint Matthew
German, c.1376-1400
Burg bei Magdeburg, Church of Our Lady (now Protestant), Upper church



Master of Froendenberger, Saint Matthew
From the Altar of Our Lady
German, 1410
Söst, Church of Saint Patrokli



Alabaster Relief, Saint Matthew
English, 1440-1460
London, Victoria and Albert Museum



Hans Strigel the Younger andThomas Bocksberger, Saint Matthew
German, c.1470
Memmingen, Church of Our Lady (Now Protestant), Nave



Jean Bourdichon, Saint Matthew
From the Hours of Frederic of Aragon
Paris (Tours), c. 1501-1504
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 10532, fol. 350r


Antonius Wierix after Ambrosius Francken, Saint Matthew
From Thesaurus Novi Testamenti elegantissimis iconibus expressus continens historias atque miracula do[mi] ni nostri Iesu Christi
Dutch, c.1580
London, British Museum


Peter Paul Rubens, Saint Matthew
Flemish, c.1610-1612
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado


The Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Matthew on September 21st.

© M. Duffy, 2011, 2016, 2022
_____________________________________________________________________
1. Freedberg, S.J. Circa 1600: A Revolution of Style in Italian Painting, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1983, pp. 59-63.
2. The Golden Legend or Lives of the Saints. Compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, 1275. First Edition Published 1470. Englished by William Caxton, First Edition 1483, Edited by F.S. Ellis, Temple Classics, 1900 (Reprinted 1922, 1931.), Volume V, page 71.  Found at: Internet History Source Books: Medieval http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/basis/goldenlegend/GoldenLegend-Volume5.asp#Matthew

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