Matthew alone sees the cloud descending from the heavens, with, above, an angel holding out the palm of martyrdom.
Saint Matthew becomes a martyr in a public place, as he comes out of his bath. The public space
is truly public - no women dressed in pink dresses and men in fancy doublets, but a site filled with old men and half-naked
youths. The saint has been thrown over by an executioner ready to stab him with his sword: an incident among other incidents,
one that upsets things. What then is miraculous here? To the spectators, it is only one violent episode. Certainly no miracle. The
event is commonplace to all but the person about to die. Matthew alone sees the cloud descending from the heavens with, above,
an angel holding out the palm of martyrdom.
One can sense the tenseness of the executioner, poised on the brink of violence, the anguish of the witnesses to the event, their
unease, surprise, panic, horror, resignation, indifference. The composition - one of the most unsettling ever painted by this
artist - is dominated by the expression of horror and fear on the face of a child who cannot understand what he sees or, perhaps,
cannot understand the unfairness of what he sees.
Upwards to the left, a self-portrait of the artist can be seen in the guise of a protagonist who is more resigned than panicked,
one who, perhaps, does understand and reminds us that we are witnessing a miracle.
Stranger yet is the young man so ornately clothed, all the way up to the left, who seems to contemplate the saint's agony with