Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Riverside

UC Riverside Previously Published Works bannerUC Riverside

Isaac Laughing: Caravaggio, non‐traditional imagery and traditional identification


From the time it was completed nearly four hundred years ago, Caravaggio's painting of a nude boy embracing a ram (today in the Pinacoteca Capitolina, Rome) has confounded viewers as to its subject, which has been variously called 'Pastor friso', Saint John the Baptist, Corydon, Paris, and 'nude youth with a ram'. This essay argues that none of these titles accounts for what we see in the painting and, no less importantly, what we do not. Using a range of modes of analysis, we propose a new reading of the painting as a variant on the theme of the Sacrifice of Isaac, one that has fascinating implications for Caravaggio's conception of the viewer-subject relationship and which contributes to a deepening of our understanding of one of early modern Europe's most innovative and provocative painters. © Association of Art Historians 2001.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View