(b. 1571, Caravaggio, d. 1610, Porto Ercole)

Boy Bitten by a Lizard (detail)

c. 1594
Oil on canvas
National Gallery, London

To be able to paint light reflecting in glass is one of the hallmarks of a virtuoso still-life artist. Mystically-inclined interpreters see it as a suggestion of supernatural light. As his early biographers commented, Caravaggio's painting of drapery, skin and objects manage without reflected light. This distinguished him from the Mannerist painters of the preceding generation. And it makes it all the more interesting to observe how unusually he renders the round crystal-vase in this picture - he flattens it. In so doing, he inverts the lighting of the whole picture, by concentrating the light areas on the left and the dark ones on the right.