The auction has been closed.
76 x 85 cm / 30" x 33"
98 x 107 cm / 39" x 43"
Oil on board
Signed lower right
A Private Collection, New York
The Calling of St Matthew' is one of Caravaggio's great religious works, and hangs in the Contarelli Chapel in Rome. Watson has relished viewing it numerous times, revisiting it again in July 2011.
His superb most recent painting references Carvaggio's masterpiece, where Bel Ami's Kris Evans kneels spectacularly centre-stage, and is convincingly portrayed participating in the scene. Lit by the dramatic diagonal light, Evans is skillfully positioned so as not to obscure the bearded tax gatherer, Levi, and his colleagues. In the foreground are an accounting book, an inkwell, a moneybag, and Evans joins in assisting in counting coins at the table. The older, bearded man is the most prominent figure amongst the group of tax collectors; he looks directly at the new arrivals and with the gesture of his left hand relates the summons unmistakably to himself.
In the 'The Calling of St Matthew' Caravaggio chose to highlight only Jesus' face and hand. Watson has taken this a step further cropping a portion from the right-side, thereby highlighting the extended arms of Jesus and St Peter commanding to follow them? Who though will rise in order to follow unreservedly his calling to be a disciple? Watson's choice of Evans positioned centre-stage is in keeping with who Jesus called as disciples and ministered to.
Caravaggio often had to grapple with the particular requirements that pictures destined for a sacred setting were expected to fulfill with regards to the stipulations of decorum. Watson's addition of Evans kneeling on the table echoes Caravaggio's revolutionary presentation of his subjects. It would appear unremarkable to many in the 21st century, though would without doubt have been rejected as a commissioned work by church authorities in the early 17th century. Whilst Evan's career choice is condemned by some, this fine painting evokes the compassion and differentiation inherent in many catholics today to issues of morality, which in contrast, the Vatican continues to condemn.