Paint Orgasm

Caravaggio‘s Boy Bitten by a Lizard has not one but two Wikipedia pages. Unfortunately, the picture of the one in the National Gallery they provide is a bit too light and does not really bring out the dark, damp feel of the scene.

Source: Wikipedia

The first Wikipedia article describes the painting in the same terms as the blurb attached to the painting in the museum:

The painting also contains complex sexual symbolism, which would have been quite clear to educated audiences in Caravaggio’s day: The bared shoulder and the rose behind the boy’s ear indicate excessive vanity and a wish to be seen and admired, the cherries symbolize sexual lust, the third finger had the same meaning in the seventeenth century as it does today, and the lizard was a metaphor for the penis. The boy becomes aware, with a shock, of the pains of physical love.

Added to this, there are the famous dirty fingernails and Caravaggio’s usual take on the nastiness of the human world. In short, the painting is about an orgasm and all that comes with it (pun not intended) — “the pains of physical love” is just pussyfooting around the subject. The other Wikipedia article is a confusing history of scholarship about the painting and it mentions that there has been a lot of discussion about the homosexual themes in the picture — that’s just a way of saying that a lot of people are wondering whether or not Caravaggio fucked or wanted to fuck his model. Someone interested in that might be wrestling with an interesting question, but, being a peasant, I don’t know how that is of any relevance to the painting itself. I find the picture opens up when you look at it and remember the first time you found release in the arms of a lover.

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