Journal of Early Modern Studies

Volume 12, Issue 2, Fall 2023


Michela Young
Pages 111-139

Narrative and Temporal Ambiguity in Caravaggio and Rembrandt’s Supper at Emmaus

Caravaggio and Rembrandt have often been considered together in light of their realism and use of chiaroscuro, as propounded in the 2006 exhibition “Caravaggio-Rembrandt”. This article explores another unifying characteristic of their paintings, ambiguity. By specifically considering the artists’ construction of narrative ambiguity in their first versions of The Supper at Emmaus, from their respective climates of Protestant Holland and Counter-Reformation Italy, it analyses the significance of the pictorial and temporal strategies employed for the exegesis of the Emmaus narrative. It considers these paintings as intentionally aporetic artworks, relying on the spiritual awareness of the viewer to resolve their indeterminacy and to reactivate their Eucharistic meaning.