CARRACCI, Lodovico
(b. 1555, Bologna, d. 1619, Bologna)

The Martyrdom of St Margaret

Oil on canvas
Cappella di Santa Margherita, San Maurizio, Mantua

The perfect way in which all the formal components of this altarpiece are balanced shows how deeply Lodovico Carracci reformed religious painting. He used both intelligence and sensitivity in the way he implemented the Counter-Reformation dictates laid down by the Council of Trent. Lodovico tried to stick to simplicity and persuasion.The saint baring her neck for the executioner is a model of Christian virtues. These are exalted through her luminous beauty which contrasts with the brutality of the soldier to the left and the executioner himself (two figures which contain references to Titian, something so often found in Lodovico's work). The faithful looking at this picture are able to identify with the spectators below· the scaffold and thus feel they are present at the scene rather than outsiders to it.

The unusual foreshortening of the scaffolding, the bit of architecture that looms abruptly out of the background, and the broad opening into heaven where angels wait to receive the soul of the martyr, are quite remarkable.