The Quietest Painting in the Room is an essay I wrote on the above painting by Caravaggio and its relationship with Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling and published over at Comment Magazine.
Here is an excerpt:
The company's dress also suggests Caravaggio's own society's (and by extension, our own) participation in the scene of both exploitation and calling. He knew perfectly well that first-century Palestinians dressed differently than sixteenth-century Florentine-Romans, but re-dressed the characters as his neighbours (and benefactors) as way of implying the theological immediacy of the scene: not this happened, but this always happens. The addition of renaissance apparel argues not that Caravaggio was a poor historian—he put Mary and Joseph in period-typical peasant garb in Flight to Egypt, for example—but is instead a way of saying such duplicity is still afoot, and such callings are still salvific.