Three people looking at a gladiator by candlelight - Joseph Wright. Canvas, oil.
There is no equal to Joseph Wright in the painting, where all the action takes place in a dark room, illuminated only by candles, which are not visible to the viewer. A masterful incarnation creates a mysterious atmosphere, makes you stare into your faces and serves as a kind of allegory - the Enlightenment with its scientific and technological progress and unprecedented discoveries, as if illuminated humanity with the light of science, still living in the prejudices of the Middle Ages.
Wright’s canvases are characterized by a detailed name, and the presented work is no exception - “Three people examining a gladiator by candlelight” speaks about everything at once: about the place, and about the action, and about the main characters.
The central element of the work is a rather large figurine. This is the famous Borghese wrestler, found during excavations of one of the palaces of Nero, only on a reduced scale. The original statue, almost 2 meters high, was made around 100 BC. Wright repeats the mistake of art historians, calling the fighter a gladiator. Later, scientists came to the conclusion that this is Achilles, who fights with the Amazons.
Why did Wright pay attention to the Gladiator? The thing is that in the XVII century the fame of this statue thundered throughout Europe. Dynamic posture, masculinity, expressiveness of the statue led to the fact that there was no estate, wherever there was a copy of the wrestler.
And here, three men, art lovers, carefully study the artifact of art located in front of them. Their views are focused and serious. Thanks to lighting, facial features acquire sharp lines and special expressiveness. As if on purpose, Wright leaves an empty seat near the statue in front of the audience - he invites us to come closer and take part in the study. The amazing effect of presence!
The picture made a great impression on the audience, was barely presented to her. Like the statue itself, as well as numerous copies, the canvas was a success. A few years later, a mezzo-tinto was made from the painting, which also did not pass popularity.