The Incredulity of St Thomas – Caravaggio (1603)



More than any other artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was able to bring stories from the Bible to life. He was not just a master of realism but he had the knack of drawing the viewer into the scene as if they were experiencing the action first hand, and there’s no greater example of his prowess than his painting ‘The Incredulity of St Thomas’.

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After his crucification Christ appears before his apostles on several occasions. Thomas misses one of these appearances and declares that unless he can stick his finger in one of the spear wounds left by the Roman soldiers he refused to believe in Christ’s resurrection. Sometime later Christ appears before Thomas and invites him to put his finger into his side, with that doubting Thomas has his revelation and. acknowledges ‘The Lord’. This is the ultimate teachable moment, Christ continues “because you have seen me you believe, blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed”.

Caravaggio illustrates the moment just before Thomas’s epiphany. He and his companions are engrossed in palpating the wound like a group of doctors conferring about a patient, they seem oblivious to the fact that they’re standing before the Lord. The depiction is one sense is very disturbing I mean Thomas’s finger is fully in the wound upto his second digit, in contrast Christ attention is directed to Thomas holding his wrist to guide the apostle finger into his side. In one sense it’s almost comical you’ll note Christ has no halo nothing to identify him as the deity that makes his resurrection all the more astonishing. I mean if your God and you rise from the dead no big deal but if you’re a man and you overcome death well that’s something.

In it’s time this was a very popular painting and there are 22 known copies of this work from the 17th century.

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