Friday, December 27, 2013

Caravaggio's 12-Bead Rosary?


In reading a passage of art criticism yesterday, I encountered Caravaggio's Madonna of the Rosary and noticed something. There are twelve figures set in a rough circle whose center is a hollow space fixed in the middle of the painting. The notion occurred to me that the painting itself was a rosary for Caravaggio, each of the twelve figures representing a bead. I Googled "12-bead rosary" and learned that such a rosary does exist, but it does not appear to be common. Caravaggio, however, might have had his reasons for using twelve, the number being a significant one in Christian symbolism -- twelve tribes, twelve disciples. Not to forget the obvious twelve months, or the twelve numerals of the clock. There are also twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit, according to Catholic teaching, though I don't know the origin of this tradition.

Unfortunately, I know too little to carry this notion any further, so I'm open to the suggestions of readers on this mystery . . .

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At 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I count 13 people. Only 12 of them with heads visible though. Now, what does that mean?

At 8:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, there's 14 people visible, 13 heads, 12 faces.

At 8:28 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I still find only 12. Did you click on the image to enlarge it? I did and found only 12, but I could be wrong.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:13 PM, Blogger dhr said...

That's interesting. In spite of my Catholic roots and studies, I had never heard of the 12-bead version. It is true , howver, that the rosary has undergone several schemes before being fixed in the (current) standard form.

It might be useful to look at the actual rosary held by the friar on the left, but -- as far as I can see -- it is just 'sketched,' without a clear distinction between the groups of beads (usually 10 + a bigger one, corresponding to the Lord's Paryer after the 10 "Hail Mary").

At 9:30 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'm hoping some expert will drop in and explain it all.

Jeffery Hodges

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