It's garnering rave reviews so taking some time to see the Beyond Caravaggio exhibition at the National Gallery on maternity leave was a no-brainer. The National Gallery is heavily promoting the ticketed exhibition and that includes running various educational events and workshops based on similar themes.
Obviously, the exhibition focuses on the incredible use of light by Caravaggio and the Caravaggisti, his followers. So it made sense that this month's baby workshop at the National Gallery was a fun and interactive play session dealing with light and darkness.
The babies (infants not yet walking) sat on a colourful circular mat on the floor and played with lights. There were light boxes, light-up cubes and homemade toys (plastic containers filled with flashing fairy lights and other little trinkets). In the centre of the ring was a flat round lightbox that the babies could wriggle onto. They played with plastic shapes and patterns using the light from the centre. We introduced the babies to each other, sang songs and watched the babies interact with each other, which is more important than the artistic or educational merit of the meeting!
I'll be putting P's name down on the waiting list for the next event as soon as it opens. They're free but places get snapped up.
An added bonus is that the Winter Garden cafe (serving Itsa food) is one of the nicest places in the city to have coffee and it has a small play area for children. They encourage mums with buggies to visit and they help you bring your food and coffees to your seat.
The exhibition itself was excellent. I booked a ticket to see it at 1 pm after the baby session. Like anyone who grew up in Dublin or any neighbouring counties, I've seen the Taking of Christ too many times to count and I'd seen some of the other works which form the exhibition. But a number of the paintings are on loan from the National Gallery, London, the National Galleries of Scotland and some private collections.
Four major works by Caravaggio dominate the exhibition: The Supper at Emmaus, 1601 (National Gallery, London); The Taking of Christ, 1602 (National Gallery of Ireland), as well as two works never exhibited before in Ireland: Boy Bitten by a Lizard, 1594-95 (National Gallery, London) and Boy Peeling Fruit, c.1592 (The Royal Collection).
As a whole, it's beautifully curated and well presented. Well worth €15 (€10 on Tuesdays). Some American tourists were pretty put-out when they realised that "they've put the Caravaggio** behind a paywall!" and given that it usually forms part of the permanent collection I can see their point. But the exhibition brings a sense of freshness to the painting because you can see the other works alongside it and read the guidance notes to better understand the style of the paintings and their context. Also, the National Gallery needs to fund itself so it's not unreasonable to ask people to pay to see one of its best known paintings. They decided not to go in and it's their loss. They should have returned some of the tat they bought in Carrolls Irish Gift Shop (seriously) and paid in.
Photos aren't permitted in the exhibition so I only have a sneaky snippet of one I particularly liked - the Carravaggisti normalising breastfeeding!
*I'm BEYOND proud of this pun.
**(meaning the Taking of Christ)