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Mattia Preti 1613-1699

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas



Mattia Preti 1613-1699


The Incredulity of Saint Thomas




Oil on canvas


170 x 120 cm (framed)






On Display

After the Crucifixion, Christ rose from the dead and appeared to his apostles. One of them, Thomas, was absent and refused to believe Christ’s resurrection without witnessing it himself. This painting shows their encounter, when Christ invited Thomas to touch the wounds he had suffered on the Cross. Christ has his left arm raised to shoulder height, revealing the stigmata wound in his left hand, while his right is outstretched and pointing downwards. We witness the moment when the incredulous apostle reaches his hand out to touch the open wound in Christ’s side. Cropped at three-quarter length, the two figures occupy the entire space of the canvas, bringing us closer to the action and focusing our attention on the interaction between them. Time is suspended and the space is silent, as if we are holding our breath waiting for Thomas’s realisation. The artist is aware of the power of light. A ray of light illuminates Christ, who acts as a beacon within the dark composition: Thomas, who hasn’t yet ‘seen the light’, is about to experience a revelation. This is one of five treatments of the same subject by Mattia Preti. The silvery tonality is typical of Preti's production in the 1670s, when he was firmly established in Malta, having moved there in 1661. Although usually considered a painter of the Neapolitan school, Mattia Preti only spent seven years in Naples, from 1653 to 1660. Raised in Calabria, he spent much of his youth with his brother Gregorio in Rome. During the 1640s he travelled widely, notably to Venice, acquiring many clients along the route, but it was in the 1650s, in Naples, where he truly established his reputation. Soon after his arrival in the Kingdom he attracted the patronage of the Knights of Malta, and it was later through them that he received his greatest, and most difficult commission, the decoration of the church of Saint John, La Valletta.

Mattia Preti The Incredulity of Saint Thomas 1670s © Compton Verney