(b. 1571, Caravaggio, d. 1610, Porto Ercole)
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas1601-02
Oil on canvas, 107 x 146 cm
Schloss Sanssouci, Potsdam
This picture seems to belong to the same group as the second St Matthew and the Angel and The Sacrifice of Isaac because the same model reappears as the apostle at the apex of this composition. Like the first St Matthew and the Angel this picture belonged to Vincenzo Giustiniani and then entered the Prussian royal collection. Fortunately it was kept in Potsdam and so it survived the last war intact. This is the most copied painting of Caravaggio, 22 copies from the 17th century are known.
According to St John's Gospel, Thomas missed one of Christ's appearances to the Apostles after His resurrection. He therefore announced that, unless he could thrust his hand into Christ's side, he would not believe what he had been told. A week later Christ appeared, asked Thomas to reach out his hands to touch Him and said, 'Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'
This drama of disbelief seems to have touched Caravaggio personally. Few of his paintings are physically so shocking - his Thomas pushes curiosity to its limits before he will say, 'My Lord and my God.' The classical composition carefully unites the four heads in the quest for truth. Christ's head is largely in shadow, as He is the person who is the least knowable. He also has a beauty that had not been evident in the Mattei paintings of His arrest and appearance at Emmaus.