Who says high-brow, 17th century art and modern-day advertising — the sacred and the profane — can’t make great bedfellows? It appears Netflix promoted the second season of Daredevil with posters modeled after paintings by Baroque artist Caravaggio.
It looks like someone at Netflix was paying attention in Art History 101. Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Wolf) are posed in almost the exact same scenarios as Caravaggio’s famous larger-than-life Baroque oil paintings of religious saints. Arguably these saints, at the time, were the rough equivalent of what a Marvel superhero is today.
But besides nicking Caravaggio’s composition format, the posters also faithfully employ Caravaggio’s signature blend of uncanny naturalism and stark realism, both physical and emotional, as well as his use of uneven, dramatic lighting. That’s chiarascuro, literally meaning “light-dark,” for you art nerds out there. Yeah, get it. It’s your time to shine.
The sinuous (contraposto) image of the Daredevil himself, chained to a rooftop chimney under the gloom of night, recalls Caravaggio’s arrow-ridden figure against a tree trunk in The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian. Similarly, the three-quarter figure holding a rifle and helmet recalls the well-known masterpiece David With the Head of Goliath. Of course, Karen’s pose with a pen at her desk -including the desktop’s skull, books, and cloth - is a dead ringer for St Jerome Writing.
Not only does the decision to copy Caravaggio make great eye candy, but it adds an undeniable dimension of psychological depth and epic gravitas. Also, the choice to recall the images of a martyr, an underdog, and a solitary scholar makes the viewer associate those qualities with the Daredevil characters themselves.
Then there’s the well-established fact that, during Caravaggio’s lifetime, he often faced scandal from the respected religious Establishment for his own sexual proclivities (he was gay), as well as the graphically violent and sensuous nature of his paintings. So rather than just an imitation - also referring to the sex and violence featured in the Daredevil series itself - this poster trilogy inevitably appears to be a homage to Caravaggio himself, who was the ultimate outsider hero in his own society.