Caravaggio. Sette Opere di Misericordia (The Seven Works of Mercy). 1607.
The painting was made for, and is still housed in, the church of Pio Monte della Misericordia in Naples. Originally it was meant to be seven separate panels around the church; however, Caravaggio combined all seven works of mercy in one composition which became the church’s altarpiece. The painting is better seen from il “coreto” (little choir) in the first floor. The titular seven works/acts of mercy are represented in the painting as follows: Bury the dead In the background, two men carry a dead man (of whom only the feet are visible). Visit the imprisoned, and feed the hungry On the right, a woman visits an imprisoned man and gives him milk from her breast. This image alludes to the classical story of Roman Charity. Shelter the homeless A pilgrim (third from left, as identified by the shell in his hat) asks an innkeeper (at far left) for shelter. Clothe the naked St. Martin of Tours, fourth from the left, has torn his robe in half and given it to the naked beggar in the foreground, recalling the saint’s popular legend. Visit the sick St. Martin greets and comforts the beggar who is a cripple. Refresh the thirsty Samson (second from the left) drinks water from the jawbone of an ass.