Going Baroque: Dior Finds Inspiration in Caravaggio for S/S 2021 RTW Campaign

Caravaggio was a total badass. He took major commissions from Catholic Popes, then returned paintings that were rife with homoerotic coding and symbolism. He hired prostitutes and street urchins to pose for him. And he was regularly involved in street brawls and duels, one of the latter ultimately leading to the death of Ranuccio Tomassoni in 1606.

But his holy patrons were mostly willing to look the other way, because he made work of such vivid and visceral intensity and beauty – even where it involved severed heads. And for its Spring/Summer 2021 Ready to Wear collection, Dior has created a campaign that gestures directly to the great Baroque master’s enduring genius.

The images, courtesy of Bulgarian born, Paris based photographer Elina Kechicheva (who has also shot for Missoni), reflect the influence of Caravaggio’s mastery of the mystifying technique of chiaroscuro, which is characterized by striking contrasts between light and shade, resulting in a kind of three-dimensional effect. The finished campaign is rife with languid beauty, enigmatic intrigues, and insouciant romance.

Creative Director Maria Grazia Chiuri’s clothes for S/S 2021 eschew the clichéd aesthetic signifiers of the two warmer seasons, in favor of regal blues, elegant paisleys, tactile fabrics and delicate embroideries. It all has the character of exquisite timelessness – much the same as Caravaggio’s Death of the Virgin or Supper at Emmaus, which are just as arresting now as they were when they were birthed just over 400 years ago.

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