On the third day after the Crucifixion two of Jesus’s disciples were walking to Emmaus when they met the resurrected Christ. They failed to recognise him, but that evening at supper he ‘... took bread, and blessed it, and brake and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight’ (Luke 24: 30–31).
Painted at the height of Caravaggio’s fame, this is among his most impressive domestic religious pictures. He brilliantly captures the dramatic climax of the story, the moment when the disciples suddenly see what has been in front of them all along. Their actions convey their astonishment: one is about to leap out of his chair while the other throws out his arms in a gesture of disbelief. The stark lighting underlines the dramatic intensity of the scene.
Typically for Caravaggio, he has shown the disciples as ordinary working men, with bearded, lined faces and ragged clothes, in contrast to the youthful beardless Christ, who seems to have come from a different world.