How Rembrandt, Titian and Caravaggio tackled pestilence

Jonathan Jones in The Guardian:

Detail of Humana Fragilitas (Human Frailty), circa 1657, by Salvator Rosa. Photograph: DEA/A Dagli Orti/Getty Images/DeAgostini

It seems incredible that we should find common cause with the people of 500 years ago, who faced disease without any understanding or remotely adequate treatment. But on Sunday, Pope Francis walked the streets of Rome, left empty by coronavirus, to visit the church of San Marcello on the Corso – and revere a cross that supposedly protected Rome from plague in 1522.

We now find ourselves in the same plight – menaced by an illness that seems to have the upper hand and that is turning our assumptions upside down. Even the methods being used, including quarantine, come from that plagued past. As does much of Europe’s greatest art. These masterpieces might console us, or make us see this unfamiliar moment in a new light, or even give us practical ideas to cope. Here are some of those images, perhaps to be used as guides – for Rembrandt, Titian and Caravaggio trod this path before us.

More here.