Caravaggio

Caravaggio

Overview
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (kara'vaddʒo; 29 September 1571 – 18 July 1610) was an Italian
Italian people
The Italian people are an ethnic group that share a common Italian culture, ancestry and speak the Italian language as a mother tongue. Within Italy, Italians are defined by citizenship, regardless of ancestry or country of residence , and are distinguished from people...

 artist
Artist
An artist is a person engaged in one or more of any of a broad spectrum of activities related to creating art, practicing the arts and/or demonstrating an art. The common usage in both everyday speech and academic discourse is a practitioner in the visual arts only...

 active in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

, Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

, and Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 between 1593 and 1610. His paintings, which combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, had a formative influence on the Baroque
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 school of painting.

Caravaggio trained as a painter in Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

 under a master who had himself trained under Titian
Titian
Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near...

.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Caravaggio'
Start a new discussion about 'Caravaggio'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Recent Discussions
Encyclopedia
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (kara'vaddʒo; 29 September 1571 – 18 July 1610) was an Italian
Italian people
The Italian people are an ethnic group that share a common Italian culture, ancestry and speak the Italian language as a mother tongue. Within Italy, Italians are defined by citizenship, regardless of ancestry or country of residence , and are distinguished from people...

 artist
Artist
An artist is a person engaged in one or more of any of a broad spectrum of activities related to creating art, practicing the arts and/or demonstrating an art. The common usage in both everyday speech and academic discourse is a practitioner in the visual arts only...

 active in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

, Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

, and Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 between 1593 and 1610. His paintings, which combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, had a formative influence on the Baroque
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 school of painting.

Caravaggio trained as a painter in Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

 under a master who had himself trained under Titian
Titian
Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near...

. In his early twenties Caravaggio moved to Rome where, during the late 16th and early 17th centuries, many huge new churches and palazzi were being built and paintings were needed to fill them. During the Counter-Reformation
Counter-Reformation
The Counter-Reformation was the period of Catholic revival beginning with the Council of Trent and ending at the close of the Thirty Years' War, 1648 as a response to the Protestant Reformation.The Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort, composed of four major elements:#Ecclesiastical or...

 the Roman Catholic Church searched for religious art
Sacred art
Sacred art is imagery intended to uplift the mind to the spiritual. Sacred art involves the ritual and cultic practices and practical and operative aspects of the path of the spiritual realization within the bosom of the tradition in question....

 with which to counter the threat of Protestantism
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

, and for this task the artificial conventions of Mannerism
Mannerism
Mannerism is a period of European art that emerged from the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520. It lasted until about 1580 in Italy, when a more Baroque style began to replace it, but Northern Mannerism continued into the early 17th century throughout much of Europe...

, which had ruled art for almost a century, no longer seemed adequate. Caravaggio's novelty was a radical naturalism
Naturalism (art)
Naturalism in art refers to the depiction of realistic objects in a natural setting. The Realism movement of the 19th century advocated naturalism in reaction to the stylized and idealized depictions of subjects in Romanticism, but many painters have adopted a similar approach over the centuries...

 that combined close physical observation with a dramatic, even theatrical, use of chiaroscuro
Chiaroscuro
Chiaroscuro in art is "an Italian term which literally means 'light-dark'. In paintings the description refers to clear tonal contrasts which are often used to suggest the volume and modelling of the subjects depicted"....

. This came to be known as Tenebrism
Tenebrism
Tenebrism, from the Italian tenebroso , is a style of painting using very pronounced chiaroscuro, where there are violent contrasts of light and dark, and darkness becomes a dominating feature of the image...

, the shift from light to dark with little intermediate value. He burst upon the Rome art scene in 1600 with the success of his first public commissions, the Martyrdom of Saint Matthew
The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew (Caravaggio)
The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew is a painting by the Italian master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. It is located in the Contarelli Chapel of the church of the French congregation San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, where it hangs opposite The Calling of Saint Matthew and beside the altarpiece The...

 and Calling of Saint Matthew
The Calling of St Matthew (Caravaggio)
The Calling of Saint Matthew is a masterpiece by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, depicting the Calling of Matthew. It was completed in 1599-1600 for the Contarelli Chapel in the church of the French congregation, San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome...

. Thereafter he never lacked commissions or patrons, yet he handled his success atrociously. He was jailed on several occasions, vandalized his own apartment, and ultimately had a death warrant issued for him by the Pope. An early published notice on him, dating from 1604 and describing his lifestyle three years previously, tells how "after a fortnight's work he will swagger about for a month or two with a sword at his side and a servant following him, from one ball-court to the next, ever ready to engage in a fight or an argument, so that it is most awkward to get along with him." In 1606 he killed a young man in a brawl and fled from Rome with a price on his head. He was involved in a brawl in Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

 in 1608, and another in Naples in 1609, possibly a deliberate attempt on his life by unidentified enemies. This encounter left him severely injured. A year later, at the age of 38, he died of a fever in Porto Ercole, near Grosseto in Tuscany, while on his way to Rome to receive a pardon.

Infamous while he lived, Caravaggio was forgotten almost immediately after his death, and it was only in the 20th century that his importance to the development of Western art was rediscovered. Despite this, his influence on the new Baroque style that eventually emerged from the ruins of Mannerism
Mannerism
Mannerism is a period of European art that emerged from the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520. It lasted until about 1580 in Italy, when a more Baroque style began to replace it, but Northern Mannerism continued into the early 17th century throughout much of Europe...

 was profound. It can be seen directly or indirectly in the work of Rubens
Rubens
Rubens is often used to refer to Peter Paul Rubens , the Flemish artist.Rubens may also refer to:- People :Family name* Paul Rubens Rubens is often used to refer to Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), the Flemish artist.Rubens may also refer to:- People :Family name* Paul Rubens (composer) Rubens is...

, Jusepe de Ribera, Bernini, and Rembrandt, and artists in the following generation heavily under his influence were called the "Caravaggisti" or "Caravagesques", as well as Tenebrists
Tenebrism
Tenebrism, from the Italian tenebroso , is a style of painting using very pronounced chiaroscuro, where there are violent contrasts of light and dark, and darkness becomes a dominating feature of the image...

 or "Tenebrosi" ("shadowists"). Andre Berne-Joffroy, Paul Valéry
Paul Valéry
Ambroise-Paul-Toussaint-Jules Valéry was a French poet, essayist, and philosopher. His interests were sufficiently broad that he can be classified as a polymath...

's secretary, said of him: "What begins in the work of Caravaggio is, quite simply, modern painting."

Biography



Early life (1571–1592)


Caravaggio was born in Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

, where his father, Fermo Merisi, was a household administrator and architect-decorator to the Marchese of Caravaggio, a town not far from the city of Bergamo
Bergamo
Bergamo is a town and comune in Lombardy, Italy, about 40 km northeast of Milan. The comune is home to over 120,000 inhabitants. It is served by the Orio al Serio Airport, which also serves the Province of Bergamo, and to a lesser extent the metropolitan area of Milan...

. His mother, Lucia Aratori, came from a propertied family of the same district. In 1576 the family moved to Caravaggio to escape a plague which ravaged Milan, and Caravaggio's father died there in 1577. It is assumed that the artist grew up in Caravaggio, but his family kept up connections with the Sforzas and with the powerful Colonna family, who were allied by marriage with the Sforzas and destined to play a major role later in Caravaggio's life.

Caravaggio's mother died in 1584, the same year he began his four year apprenticeship to the Milanese painter Simone Peterzano
Simone Peterzano
Simone Peterzano was an Italian painter of the later Mannerism, native of Bergamo. He is mostly known as the master of Caravaggio....

, described in the contract of apprenticeship as a pupil of Titian
Titian
Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near...

. Caravaggio appears to have stayed in the Milan-Caravaggio area after his apprenticeship ended, but it is possible that he visited Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 and saw the works of Giorgione
Giorgione
Giorgione was a Venetian painter of the High Renaissance in Venice, whose career was cut off by his death at a little over thirty. Giorgione is known for the elusive poetic quality of his work, though only about six surviving paintings are acknowledged for certain to be his work...

, whom Federico Zuccari
Federico Zuccari
Federico Zuccari, also known as Federigo Zuccaro , was an Italian Mannerist painter and architect, active both in Italy and abroad.-Biography:Zuccari was born at Sant'Angelo in Vado, near Urbino ....

 later accused him of imitating, and Titian
Titian
Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near...

. He would also have become familiar with the art treasures of Milan, including Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

's Last Supper
The Last Supper (Leonardo)
The Last Supper is a 15th century mural painting in Milan created by Leonardo da Vinci for his patron Duke Ludovico Sforza and his duchess Beatrice d'Este...

, and with the regional Lombard art, a style which valued simplicity and attention to naturalistic detail and was closer to the naturalism
Naturalism (art)
Naturalism in art refers to the depiction of realistic objects in a natural setting. The Realism movement of the 19th century advocated naturalism in reaction to the stylized and idealized depictions of subjects in Romanticism, but many painters have adopted a similar approach over the centuries...

 of Germany than to the stylised formality and grandeur of Roman Mannerism
Mannerism
Mannerism is a period of European art that emerged from the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520. It lasted until about 1580 in Italy, when a more Baroque style began to replace it, but Northern Mannerism continued into the early 17th century throughout much of Europe...

.

Rome (1592–1600)



Caravaggio left Milan for Rome in mid-1592, in flight after "certain quarrels" and the wounding of a police officer. He arrived in Rome "naked and extremely needy ... without fixed address and without provision ... short of money." A few months later he was performing hack-work for the highly successful Giuseppe Cesari
Giuseppe Cesari
Giuseppe Cesari was an Italian Mannerist painter, also named Il Giuseppino and called Cavaliere d'Arpino, because he was created Cavaliere di Cristo by his patron Pope Clement VIII. He was much patronized in Rome by both Sixtus V.-Biography:Cesari's father had been a native of Arpino, but...

, Pope Clement VIII
Pope Clement VIII
Pope Clement VIII , born Ippolito Aldobrandini, was Pope from 30 January 1592 to 3 March 1605.-Cardinal:...

's favourite artist, "painting flowers and fruit" in his factory-like workshop. Known works from this period include a small Boy Peeling a Fruit
Boy Peeling Fruit (Caravaggio)
Boy Peeling Fruit is a painting by the Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio painted circa 1592-1593.This is the earliest known work by Caravaggio, painted soon after his arrival in Rome from his native Milan in mid 1592. His movements in this period are not certain...

(his earliest known painting), a Boy with a Basket of Fruit
Boy with a Basket of Fruit (Caravaggio)
Boy with a Basket of Fruit, c.1593, is a painting generally ascribed to Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, currently in the Galleria Borghese, Rome....

, and the Young Sick Bacchus, supposedly a self-portrait done during convalescence from a serious illness that ended his employment with Cesari. All three demonstrate the physical particularity for which Caravaggio was to become renowned: the fruit-basket-boy's produce has been analysed by a professor of horticulture, who was able to identify individual cultivars right down to "... a large fig leaf with a prominent fungal scorch lesion resembling anthracnose (Glomerella cingulata)."

Caravaggio left Cesari in January 1594, determined to make his own way. At this point he forged some extremely important friendships, with the painter Prospero Orsi, the architect Onorio Longhi
Onorio Longhi
Onorio Longhi was an Italian architect, the father of Martino Longhi the Younger and the son of Martino Longhi the Elder.Born in Viggiù, Lombardy, Longhi began as assistant for his father, and inherited the latter's commission at his death in 1591...

, and the sixteen year old Sicilian
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 artist Mario Minniti
Mario Minniti
Mario Minniti was an Italian artist active in Sicily after 1606.Born in Syracuse, Sicily, he arrived in Rome in 1593, where he became the friend, collaborator and model of the key Baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio...

. Orsi, established in the profession, introduced him to influential collectors; Longhi, more balefully, introduced him to the world of Roman street-brawls; and Minniti served as a model and, years later, would be instrumental in helping Caravaggio to important commissions in Sicily. The Fortune Teller
The Fortune Teller (Caravaggio)
The Fortune Teller is a painting by Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. It exists in two versions, both by Caravaggio, the first from 1594 , the second from 1595...

, his first composition with more than one figure, shows Mario being cheated by a gypsy girl. The theme was quite new for Rome, and proved immensely influential over the next century and beyond. This, however, was in the future: at the time, Caravaggio sold it for practically nothing. The Cardsharps — showing another unsophisticated boy falling the victim of card cheats — is even more psychologically complex, and perhaps Caravaggio's first true masterpiece. Like the Fortune Teller
The Fortune Teller (Caravaggio)
The Fortune Teller is a painting by Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. It exists in two versions, both by Caravaggio, the first from 1594 , the second from 1595...

it was immensely popular, and over 50 copies survive. More importantly, it attracted the patronage of Cardinal
Cardinal (Catholicism)
A cardinal is a senior ecclesiastical official, usually an ordained bishop, and ecclesiastical prince of the Catholic Church. They are collectively known as the College of Cardinals, which as a body elects a new pope. The duties of the cardinals include attending the meetings of the College and...

 Francesco Maria Del Monte
Francesco Maria Del Monte
Francesco Maria Del Monte, full name Francesco Maria Bourbon Del Monte Santa Maria, was an Italian Cardinal, diplomat and connoisseur of the arts...

, one of the leading connoisseurs in Rome. For Del Monte and his wealthy art-loving circle Caravaggio executed a number of intimate chamber-pieces — The Musicians
The Musicians (Caravaggio)
The Musicians is a painting by the Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio . It is held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York....

, The Lute Player
The Lute Player (Caravaggio)
The Lute Player is a composition by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio. It exists in three versions, one in the Wildenstein Collection, another in the Hermitage Museum, St...

, a tipsy Bacchus
Bacchus (Caravaggio)
Bacchus is a painting by Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio . It is held in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence....

, an allegorical but realistic Boy Bitten by a Lizard
Boy Bitten by a Lizard (Caravaggio)
Boy Bitten by a Lizard is a painting by the Italian Baroque painter Caravaggio. It exists in two versions, both believed to be authentic, one in the Fondazione Roberto Longhi in Florence, the other in the National Gallery, London...

— featuring Minniti and other adolescent models.
The realism returned with Caravaggio's first paintings on religious themes, and the emergence of remarkable spirituality. The first of these was the Penitent Magdalene
Penitent Magdalene (Caravaggio)
Penitent Magdalene is a 16th century oil on canvas painting by Italian Baroque painter Caravaggio. The painting portrays a repentant Mary Magdalene, bowed over in penitent sorrow as she leaves behind her dissolute life, its trappings abandoned beside her. At the time of its completion, ca...

, showing Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus' most celebrated disciples, and the most important woman disciple in the movement of Jesus. Jesus cleansed her of "seven demons", conventionally interpreted as referring to complex illnesses...

 at the moment when she has turned from her life as a courtesan and sits weeping on the floor, her jewels scattered around her. "It seemed not a religious painting at all ... a girl sitting on a low wooden stool drying her hair ... Where was the repentance ... suffering ... promise of salvation?" It was understated, in the Lombard manner, not histrionic in the Roman manner of the time. It was followed by others in the same style: Saint Catherine
Saint Catherine (Caravaggio)
Saint Catherine of Alexandria is an oil painting by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio. It is part of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection of Madrid....

, Martha and Mary Magdalene
Martha and Mary Magdalene (Caravaggio)
Martha and Mary Magdalene is a painting by the Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. It is in the Detroit Institute of Arts. Alternate titles include Martha Reproving Mary, The Conversion of the Magdalene....

, Judith Beheading Holofernes
Judith Beheading Holofernes (Caravaggio)
Judith Beheading Holofernes is a work by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, painted in 1598-99. The widow Judith first charms the Assyrian general Holofernes, then decapitates him in his tent.- Subject :...

, a Sacrifice of Isaac
Sacrifice of Isaac (Caravaggio)
The Sacrifice of Isaac is the title of two paintings by the Italian master Caravaggio .- Princeton version :The Sacrifice of Isaac in the Piasecka-Johnson Collection in Princeton, New Jersey, is a disputed work that was painted circa 1603...

, a Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy
Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy (Caravaggio)
Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy is a painting by the Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio...

, and a Rest on the Flight into Egypt
Rest on the Flight into Egypt (Caravaggio)
Rest on the Flight into Egypt is a painting by the Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, in the Doria Pamphilj Gallery, Rome....

. The works, while viewed by a comparatively limited circle, increased Caravaggio's fame with both connoisseurs and his fellow artists. But a true reputation would depend on public commissions, and for these it was necessary to look to the Church.

Already evident was the intense realism or naturalism for which Caravaggio is now famous. He preferred to paint his subjects as the eye sees them, with all their natural flaws and defects instead of as idealised creations. This allowed a full display of Caravaggio's virtuosic talents. This shift from accepted standard practice and the classical idealism of Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

 was very controversial at the time. Not only was his realism a noteworthy feature of his paintings during this period, he turned away from the lengthy preparations traditional in central Italy at the time. Instead, he preferred the Venetian practice of working in oils directly from the subject - half-length figures and still life. One of the characteristic paintings by Caravaggio at this time which gives a good demonstration of his virtuoso talent was his work, Supper at Emmaus from c.1600–1601.

"Most famous painter in Rome" (1600–1606)


In 1599, presumably through the influence of Del Monte, Caravaggio was contracted to decorate the Contarelli Chapel
Contarelli Chapel
The Contarelli Chapel, within the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, is famous for housing three paintings on the theme of Saint Matthew the Evangelist by the Baroque master Caravaggio....

 in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi
San Luigi dei Francesi
The Church of St. Louis of the French is a Roman Catholic minor basilica and titular church in Rome, not far from Piazza Navona. The church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, to St. Denis the Areopagite and St. Louis IX, king of France...

. The two works making up the commission, the Martyrdom of Saint Matthew
The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew (Caravaggio)
The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew is a painting by the Italian master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. It is located in the Contarelli Chapel of the church of the French congregation San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, where it hangs opposite The Calling of Saint Matthew and beside the altarpiece The...

 and Calling of Saint Matthew
The Calling of St Matthew (Caravaggio)
The Calling of Saint Matthew is a masterpiece by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, depicting the Calling of Matthew. It was completed in 1599-1600 for the Contarelli Chapel in the church of the French congregation, San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome...

, delivered in 1600, were an immediate sensation. Caravaggio's tenebrism
Tenebrism
Tenebrism, from the Italian tenebroso , is a style of painting using very pronounced chiaroscuro, where there are violent contrasts of light and dark, and darkness becomes a dominating feature of the image...

 (a heightened chiaroscuro
Chiaroscuro
Chiaroscuro in art is "an Italian term which literally means 'light-dark'. In paintings the description refers to clear tonal contrasts which are often used to suggest the volume and modelling of the subjects depicted"....

) brought high drama to his subjects, while his acutely observed realism brought a new level of emotional intensity. Opinion among Caravaggio's artist peers was polarized. Some denounced him for various perceived failings, notably his insistence on painting from life, without drawings, but for the most part he was hailed as a great artistic visionary: "The painters then in Rome were greatly taken by this novelty, and the young ones particularly gathered around him, praised him as the unique imitator of nature, and looked on his work as miracles."

Caravaggio went on to secure a string of prestigious commissions for religious works featuring violent struggles, grotesque decapitations, torture and death, most notable and most technically masterful among them The Taking of Christ of circa 1602 for the Mattei Family, recently rediscovered in Ireland after two centuries. For the most part each new painting increased his fame, but a few were rejected by the various bodies for whom they were intended, at least in their original forms, and had to be re-painted or find new buyers. The essence of the problem was that while Caravaggio's dramatic intensity was appreciated, his realism was seen by some as unacceptably vulgar. His first version of Saint Matthew and the Angel
Saint Matthew and the Angel (Caravaggio)
Saint Matthew and the Angel is a painting from the Italian master Caravaggio , completed for the Contarelli Chapel in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome...

, featured the saint as a bald peasant with dirty legs attended by a lightly clad over-familiar boy-angel, was rejected and a second version had to be painted as The Inspiration of Saint Matthew. Similarly, The Conversion of Saint Paul
The Conversion of Saint Paul (Caravaggio)
The Conversion of Saint Paul , by the Italian painter Caravaggio, is housed in the Odescalchi Balbi Collection of Rome. It is one of at least two paintings by Caravaggio of the same subject, the Conversion of Paul...

was rejected, and while another version of the same subject, the Conversion on the Way to Damascus
Conversion on the Way to Damascus
The Conversion on the Way to Damascus is a masterpiece by Caravaggio, painted in 1601 for the Cerasi Chapel of the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, in Rome. Across the chapel is a second Caravaggio painting depicting the inverted Crucifixion of St. Peter...

, was accepted, it featured the saint's horse's haunches far more prominently than the saint himself, prompting this exchange between the artist and an exasperated official of Santa Maria del Popolo
Santa Maria del Popolo
Santa Maria del Popolo is an Augustinian church located in Rome, Italy.It stands to the north side of the Piazza del Popolo, one of the most famous squares in the city. The Piazza is situated between the ancient Porta Flaminia and the park of the Pincio...

: "Why have you put a horse in the middle, and Saint Paul
Paul of Tarsus
Paul the Apostle , also known as Saul of Tarsus, is described in the Christian New Testament as one of the most influential early Christian missionaries, with the writings ascribed to him by the church forming a considerable portion of the New Testament...

 on the ground?" "Because!" "Is the horse God?" "No, but he stands in God's light!"
Other works included Entombment
The Entombment of Christ (Caravaggio)
The Entombment of Christ is a painting by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. It was painted for Santa Maria in Vallicella, a church built for the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri, and adjacent to the buildings of the order...

, the Madonna di Loreto
Madonna di Loreto (Caravaggio)
The Madonna of Loreto is a famous painting by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio, located in the Cavalletti Chapel of the church of Sant'Agostino, near the Piazza Navona in Rome...

(Madonna of the Pilgrims), the Grooms' Madonna
Madonna and Child with St. Anne (Dei Palafrenieri) (Caravaggio)
The Madonna and Child with St. Anne is one of the mature religious works of the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio, painted in 1605-1606, for the altar of Archconfraternity of the Papal Grooms in the Basilica of Saint Peter...

, and the Death of the Virgin
Death of the Virgin (Caravaggio)
The Death of the Virgin is a painting completed by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio. It is a near contemporary with the Madonna with Saint Anne now at the Galleria Borghese...

. The history of these last two paintings illustrate the reception given to some of Caravaggio's art, and the times in which he lived. The Grooms' Madonna
Madonna and Child with St. Anne (Dei Palafrenieri) (Caravaggio)
The Madonna and Child with St. Anne is one of the mature religious works of the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio, painted in 1605-1606, for the altar of Archconfraternity of the Papal Grooms in the Basilica of Saint Peter...

, also known as Madonna dei palafrenieri
Madonna and Child with St. Anne (Dei Palafrenieri) (Caravaggio)
The Madonna and Child with St. Anne is one of the mature religious works of the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio, painted in 1605-1606, for the altar of Archconfraternity of the Papal Grooms in the Basilica of Saint Peter...

, painted for a small altar in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, remained there for just two days, and was then taken off. A cardinal's secretary wrote: "In this painting there are but vulgarity, sacrilege, impiousness and disgust...One would say it is a work made by a painter that can paint well, but of a dark spirit, and who has been for a lot of time far from God, from His adoration, and from any good thought..."
The Death of the Virgin
Death of the Virgin (Caravaggio)
The Death of the Virgin is a painting completed by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio. It is a near contemporary with the Madonna with Saint Anne now at the Galleria Borghese...

, then, commissioned in 1601 by a wealthy jurist for his private chapel in the new Carmelite church of Santa Maria della Scala, was rejected by the Carmelites in 1606. Caravaggio's contemporary Giulio Mancini
Giulio Mancini
Giulio Mancini was a noted physician, art collector and writer on a range of subjects.A native of Siena, he came to Rome in 1592 and quickly made a brilliant medical career, becoming personal physician to pope Urban VIII in 1623....

 records that it was rejected because Caravaggio had used a well-known prostitute as his model for the Virgin; Giovanni Baglione
Giovanni Baglione
Giovanni Baglione was an Italian Late Mannerist and Early Baroque painter and art historian. He is best remembered for his acrimonious involvement with the artist Caravaggio and his writings concerning the other Roman artists of his time.-Early life:A pupil of Francesco Morelli, he worked mainly...

, another contemporary, tells us it was due to Mary's bare legs —a matter of decorum in either case. Caravaggio scholar John Gash suggests that the problem for the Carmelites may have been theological rather than aesthetic, in that Caravaggio's version fails to assert the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary
Assumption of Mary
According to the belief of Christians of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and parts of the Anglican Communion and Continuing Anglicanism, the Assumption of Mary was the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her life...

, the idea that the Mother of God did not die in any ordinary sense but was assumed into Heaven. The replacement altarpiece commissioned (from one of Caravaggio's most able followers, Carlo Saraceni
Carlo Saraceni
Carlo Saraceni was an Italian early-Baroque painter, whose reputation as a "first-class painter of the second rank" was improved with the publication of a modern monograph in 1968....

), showed the Virgin not dead, as Caravaggio had painted her, but seated and dying; and even this was rejected, and replaced with a work which showed the Virgin not dying, but ascending into Heaven with choirs of angels. In any case, the rejection did not mean that Caravaggio or his paintings were out of favour. The Death of the Virgin was no sooner taken out of the church than it was purchased by the Duke of Mantua, on the advice of Rubens, and later acquired by Charles I of England
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

 before entering the French royal collection in 1671.
One secular piece from these years is Amor Victorious, painted in 1602 for Vincenzo Giustiniani
Vincenzo Giustiniani
thumb|upright|Vincenzo Giustiniani in a portrait by [[Nicolas Régnier]] Marchese Vincenzo Giustiniani was an aristocratic Italian banker, art collector and intellectual of the late 16th and early 17th centuries, known today largely for the Giustiniani art collection, assembled at Palazzo...

, a member of Del Monte's circle. The model was named in a memoir of the early 17th century as "Cecco", the diminutive for Francesco. He is possibly Francesco Boneri, identified with an artist active in the period 1610–1625 and known as Cecco del Caravaggio
Cecco del Caravaggio
Cecco del Caravaggio , is the name used for a Baroque artist working in Rome in the early decades of the 17th century, an important early follower of Caravaggio. He has been identified as Francesco Boneri , although this is not universally accepted.Little is known about Cecco del Caravaggio...

 ('Caravaggio's Cecco'), carrying a bow and arrows and trampling symbols of the warlike and peaceful arts and sciences underfoot. He is unclothed, and it is difficult to accept this grinning urchin as the Roman god Cupid
Cupid
In Roman mythology, Cupid is the god of desire, affection and erotic love. He is the son of the goddess Venus and the god Mars. His Greek counterpart is Eros...

 – as difficult as it was to accept Caravaggio's other semi-clad adolescents as the various angels he painted in his canvases, wearing much the same stage-prop wings. The point, however, is the intense yet ambiguous reality of the work: it is simultaneously Cupid and Cecco, as Caravaggio's Virgins were simultaneously the Mother of Christ and the Roman courtesans who modeled for them.

Exile and death (1606–1610)


Caravaggio led a tumultuous life. He was notorious for brawling, even in a time and place when such behavior was commonplace, and the transcripts of his police records and trial proceedings fill several pages. On 29 May 1606, he killed, possibly unintentionally, a young man named Ranuccio Tomassoni from Terni (Umbria). Previously his high-placed patrons had protected him from the consequences of his escapades, but this time they could do nothing. Caravaggio, outlawed, fled to Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

. There, outside the jurisdiction of the Roman authorities and protected by the Colonna family, the most famous painter in Rome became the most famous in Naples. His connections with the Colonnas
Colonna family
The Colonna family is an Italian noble family; it was powerful in medieval and Renaissance Rome, supplying one Pope and many other Church and political leaders...

 led to a stream of important church commissions, including the Madonna of the Rosary
Madonna of the Rosary (Caravaggio)
The Madonna of the Rosary is a painting finished in 1607 by the Italian Baroque painter Caravaggio. It is housed in the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna....

, and The Seven Works of Mercy
The Seven Works of Mercy (Caravaggio)
The Seven Works of Mercy , also known as The Seven Acts of Mercy, is an oil painting by Italian painter Caravaggio, circa 1607. It is housed in the church of Pio Monte della Misericordia in Naples...

.

Despite his success in Naples, after only a few months in the city Caravaggio left for Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

, the headquarters of the Knights of Malta
Knights Hospitaller
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta , also known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta , Order of Malta or Knights of Malta, is a Roman Catholic lay religious order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature. It is the world's...

, presumably hoping that the patronage of Alof de Wignacourt
Alof de Wignacourt
Fra' Alof de Wignacourt was the 54th Grand Master of the Order of Malta, from 1601 to 1622. He was of the langue of France. His reign was notable for the construction of a number of coastal fortifications , and of the aqueduct that brought water from the plateau above Rabat to Valletta...

, Grand Master of the Knights, could help him secure a pardon for Tomassoni's death. De Wignacourt proved so impressed at having the famous artist as official painter to the Order that he inducted him as a knight, and the early biographer Bellori records that the artist was well pleased with his success. Major works from his Malta period include a huge Beheading of Saint John the Baptist
The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (Caravaggio)
The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist is an oil painting by the Italian artist Caravaggio. According to Andrea Pomella in Caravaggio: An Artist through Images , the work is widely considered to be Caravaggio's masterpiece as well as "one of the most important works in Western...

(the only painting to which he put his signature) and a Portrait of Alof de Wignacourt and his Page
Portrait of Alof de Wignacourt and his Page (Caravaggio)
Portrait of Alof de Wignacourt with his Page is a painting by the Italian master Caravaggio, in the Louvre of Paris.Alof de Wignacourt joined the Order of the Knights of Saint John in 1564, aged seventeen, and distinguished himself the next year at the Great Siege of Malta, when the Turks took...

, as well as portraits of other leading knights. Yet by late August 1608 he was arrested and imprisoned. The circumstances surrounding this abrupt change of fortune have long been a matter of speculation, but recent investigation has revealed it to have been the result of yet another brawl, during which the door of a house was battered down and a knight seriously wounded. He was imprisoned by the knights and managed to escape. By December he had been expelled from the Order "as a foul and rotten member."

Caravaggio made his way to Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 where he met his old friend Mario Minniti, who was now married and living in Syracuse
Syracuse, Italy
Syracuse is a historic city in Sicily, the capital of the province of Syracuse. The city is notable for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheatres, architecture, and as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes. This 2,700-year-old city played a key role in...

. Together they set off on what amounted to a triumphal tour from Syracuse to Messina and on to the island capital, Palermo
Palermo
Palermo is a city in Southern Italy, the capital of both the autonomous region of Sicily and the Province of Palermo. The city is noted for its history, culture, architecture and gastronomy, playing an important role throughout much of its existence; it is over 2,700 years old...

. In each city Caravaggio continued to win prestigious and well-paid commissions. Among other works from this period are Burial of St. Lucy
Burial of St. Lucy (Caravaggio)
Burial of Saint Lucy is a painting by the Italian artist Caravaggio. It is located in the church of Santa Lucia alla Badia located on the Piazza Duomo in Syracuse, Sicily....

, The Raising of Lazarus
The Raising of Lazarus - Messina (Caravaggio)
The Raising of Lazarus, c. 1609, in the Museo Regionale, Messina, is a painting by the Italian artist Caravaggio .In August 1608 Caravaggio fled from Malta, where he had been imprisoned for an unknown crime, and took refuge in Sicily with his friend, the artist Mario Minniti...

, and Adoration of the Shepherds
Adoration of the Shepherds (Caravaggio)
The Adoration of the Shepherds is a 1609 painting by the Italian artist Caravaggio.-External links:*http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/c/caravagg/11/67sheph.html...

. His style continued to evolve, showing now friezes of figures isolated against vast empty backgrounds. "His great Sicilian altarpieces isolate their shadowy, pitifully poor figures in vast areas of darkness; they suggest the desperate fears and frailty of man, and at the same time convey, with a new yet desolate tenderness, the beauty of humility and of the meek, who shall inherit the earth." Contemporary reports depict a man whose behaviour was becoming increasingly bizarre, sleeping fully armed and in his clothes, ripping up a painting at a slight word of criticism, mocking the local painters.

After only nine months in Sicily, Caravaggio returned to Naples. According to his earliest biographer he was being pursued by enemies while in Sicily and felt it safest to place himself under the protection of the Colonnas until he could secure his pardon from the pope (now Paul V) and return to Rome. In Naples he painted The Denial of Saint Peter
The Denial of Saint Peter (Caravaggio)
The Denial of Saint Peter is a painting finished around 1610 by the Italian painter Caravaggio. It depicts Peter denying Jesus after Jesus was arrested. The painting is housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City....

, a final John the Baptist (Borghese)
John the Baptist (Caravaggio)
John the Baptist was the subject of at least eight paintings by the Italian Baroque artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio ....

, and his last picture, The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula
The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula (Caravaggio)
The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula , is a painting by the Italian artist Caravaggio . It is owned by the Intesa Sanpaolo Bank.The holy Ursula, accompanied by eleven thousand virgins, was captured by the Huns...

. His style continued to evolve — Saint Ursula
Saint Ursula
Saint Ursula is a British Christian saint. Her feast day in the extraordinary form calendar of the Catholic Church is October 21...

 is caught in a moment of highest action and drama, as the arrow fired by the king of the Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

 strikes her in the breast, unlike earlier paintings which had all the immobility of the posed models. The brushwork was much freer and more impressionistic. Had Caravaggio lived, something new would have come.

In Naples an attempt was made on his life, by persons unknown. At first it was reported in Rome that the "famous artist" Caravaggio was dead, but then it was learned that he was alive, but seriously disfigured in the face. He painted a Salome with the Head of John the Baptist (Madrid)
Salome with the Head of John the Baptist (Madrid) (Caravaggio)
Salome with the Head of John the Baptist , c. 1609, is a painting by the Italian master Caravaggio in the Palacio Real, Madrid.The early Caravaggio biographer Giovanni Bellori, writing in 1672, records the artist sending a Salome with the Head of John the Baptist from Naples to the Grand Master of...

, showing his own head on a platter, and sent it to de Wignacourt as a plea for forgiveness. Perhaps at this time he painted also a David with the Head of Goliath
David with the Head of Goliath (Caravaggio)
David with the Head of Goliath is a painting by the Italian Baroque artist Caravaggio. It is housed in the Galleria Borghese, Rome. The painting, which was in the collection of Cardinal Scipione Borghese in 1613, has been dated as early as 1605 and as late as 1609–1610, with more recent scholars...

, showing the young David with a strangely sorrowful expression gazing on the severed head of the giant, which is again Caravaggio's. This painting he may have sent to his patron the unscrupulous art-loving Cardinal Scipione Borghese
Scipione Borghese
Scipione Borghese was an Italian Cardinal, art collector and patron of the arts. A member of the Borghese family, he was the patron of the painter Caravaggio and the artist Bernini...

, nephew of the pope, who had the power to grant or withhold pardons.

In the summer of 1610 he took a boat northwards to receive the pardon, which seemed imminent thanks to his powerful Roman friends. With him were three last paintings, gifts for Cardinal Scipione. What happened next is the subject of much confusion and conjecture. The bare facts are that on 28 July an anonymous avviso (private newsletter) from Rome to the ducal court of Urbino reported that Caravaggio was dead. Three days later another avviso said that he had died of fever on his way from Naples to Rome. A poet friend of the artist later gave 18 July as the date of death, and a recent researcher claims to have discovered a death notice showing that the artist died on that day of a fever in Porto Ercole, near Grosseto
Grosseto
Grosseto is a city and comune in the central Italian region of Tuscany, the capital of the Province of Grosseto. The city lies 14 km from the Tyrrhenian Sea, in the Maremma, at the centre of an alluvial plain, on the Ombrone river....

 in Tuscany
Tuscany
Tuscany is a region in Italy. It has an area of about 23,000 square kilometres and a population of about 3.75 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence ....

. Human remains found in a church in Porto Ercole in 2010 are believed to almost certainly belong to Caravaggio. The findings come after a year-long investigation using DNA, carbon dating and other analyses.

Caravaggio might have died of lead poisoning
Lead poisoning
Lead poisoning is a medical condition caused by increased levels of the heavy metal lead in the body. Lead interferes with a variety of body processes and is toxic to many organs and tissues including the heart, bones, intestines, kidneys, and reproductive and nervous systems...

. Bones with high lead levels were recently found in a grave likely to be Caravaggio's. Paints used at the time contained high amounts of lead salts. Caravaggio is known to have indulged in violent behavior, as caused by lead poisoning.

As an artist



The birth of Baroque


Caravaggio "put the oscuro (shadows) into chiaroscuro
Chiaroscuro
Chiaroscuro in art is "an Italian term which literally means 'light-dark'. In paintings the description refers to clear tonal contrasts which are often used to suggest the volume and modelling of the subjects depicted"....

." Chiaroscuro was practiced long before he came on the scene, but it was Caravaggio who made the technique definitive, darkening the shadows and transfixing the subject in a blinding shaft of light. With this came the acute observation of physical and psychological reality which formed the ground both for his immense popularity and for his frequent problems with his religious commissions. He worked at great speed, from live models, scoring basic guides directly onto the canvas with the end of the brush handle; very few of Caravaggio's drawings appear to have survived, and it is likely that he preferred to work directly on the canvas. The approach was anathema to the skilled artists of his day, who decried his refusal to work from drawings and to idealise his figures. Yet the models were basic to his realism. Some have been identified, including Mario Minniti
Mario Minniti
Mario Minniti was an Italian artist active in Sicily after 1606.Born in Syracuse, Sicily, he arrived in Rome in 1593, where he became the friend, collaborator and model of the key Baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio...

 and Francesco Boneri, both fellow artists, Mario appearing as various figures in the early secular works, the young Francesco as a succession of angels, Baptists and Davids in the later canvasses. His female models include Fillide Melandroni
Portrait of a Courtesan (Caravaggio)
Portrait of a Courtesan was a painting by the Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Painted between 1597 and 1599, it was destroyed in Berlin in 1945 and is known only from photographs...

, Anna Bianchini
Martha and Mary Magdalene (Caravaggio)
Martha and Mary Magdalene is a painting by the Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. It is in the Detroit Institute of Arts. Alternate titles include Martha Reproving Mary, The Conversion of the Magdalene....

, and Maddalena Antognetti (the "Lena" mentioned in court documents of the "artichoke" case as Caravaggio's concubine), all well-known prostitutes, who appear as female religious figures including the Virgin and various saints. Caravaggio himself appears in several paintings, his final self-portrait being as the witness on the far right to the Martyrdom of Saint Ursula
The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula (Caravaggio)
The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula , is a painting by the Italian artist Caravaggio . It is owned by the Intesa Sanpaolo Bank.The holy Ursula, accompanied by eleven thousand virgins, was captured by the Huns...

.
Caravaggio had a noteworthy ability to express in one scene of unsurpassed vividness the passing of a crucial moment. The Supper at Emmaus
Supper at Emmaus (London) (Caravaggio)
The Supper at Emmaus is a painting by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio, executed in 1601. Originally painted for the Roman nobleman Ciriaco Mattei, and later purchased by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, it is currently on loan to the Art Institute of Chicago, with a permanent home in the National...

depicts the recognition of Christ by his disciples: a moment before he is a fellow traveler, mourning the passing of the Messiah, as he never ceases to be to the inn-keeper's eyes, the second after, he is the Saviour. In The Calling of St Matthew
The Calling of St Matthew (Caravaggio)
The Calling of Saint Matthew is a masterpiece by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, depicting the Calling of Matthew. It was completed in 1599-1600 for the Contarelli Chapel in the church of the French congregation, San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome...

, the hand of the Saint points to himself as if he were saying "who, me?", while his eyes, fixed upon the figure of Christ, have already said, "Yes, I will follow you". With The Resurrection of Lazarus, he goes a step further, giving us a glimpse of the actual physical process of resurrection. The body of Lazarus is still in the throes of rigor mortis, but his hand, facing and recognizing that of Christ, is alive. Other major Baroque artists would travel the same path, for example Bernini, fascinated with themes from Ovid's Metamorphoses
Metamorphoses (poem)
Metamorphoses is a Latin narrative poem in fifteen books by the Roman poet Ovid describing the history of the world from its creation to the deification of Julius Caesar within a loose mythico-historical framework. Completed in AD 8, it is recognized as a masterpiece of Golden Age Latin literature...

.


The Caravaggisti


The installation of the St. Matthew paintings in the Contarelli Chapel had an immediate impact among the younger artists in Rome, and Caravaggism became the cutting edge for every ambitious young painter. The first Caravaggisti included Orazio Gentileschi
Orazio Gentileschi
Orazio Lomi Gentileschi was an Italian Baroque painter, one of more important painters influenced by Caravaggio...

 and Giovanni Baglione
Giovanni Baglione
Giovanni Baglione was an Italian Late Mannerist and Early Baroque painter and art historian. He is best remembered for his acrimonious involvement with the artist Caravaggio and his writings concerning the other Roman artists of his time.-Early life:A pupil of Francesco Morelli, he worked mainly...

. Baglione's Caravaggio phase was short-lived; Caravaggio later accused him of plagiarism and the two were involved in a long feud. Baglione went on to write the first biography of Caravaggio. In the next generation of Caravaggisti there were Carlo Saraceni
Carlo Saraceni
Carlo Saraceni was an Italian early-Baroque painter, whose reputation as a "first-class painter of the second rank" was improved with the publication of a modern monograph in 1968....

, Bartolomeo Manfredi
Bartolomeo Manfredi
Bartolomeo Manfredi was an Italian painter, a leading member of the Caravaggisti of the early 17th century.Manfredi was born in Ostiano, near Cremona...

 and Orazio Borgianni
Orazio Borgianni
Orazio Borgianni was an Italian painter and etcher of the Mannerist and early-baroque periods. He was the stepbrother of the sculptor and architect Giulio Lasso....

. Gentileschi, despite being considerably older, was the only one of these artists to live much beyond 1620, and ended up as court painter to Charles I of England
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

. His daughter Artemisia Gentileschi
Artemisia Gentileschi
Artemisia Gentileschi was an Italian Early Baroque painter, today considered one of the most accomplished painters in the generation influenced by Caravaggio...

 was also close to Caravaggio, and one of the most gifted of the movement. Yet in Rome and in Italy it was not Caravaggio, but the influence of Annibale Carracci
Annibale Carracci
Annibale Carracci was an Italian Baroque painter.-Early career:Annibale Carracci was born in Bologna, and in all likelihood first apprenticed within his family...

, blending elements from the High Renaissance
High Renaissance
The expression High Renaissance, in art history, is a periodizing convention used to denote the apogee of the visual arts in the Italian Renaissance...

 and Lombard realism, which ultimately triumphed.

Caravaggio's brief stay in Naples produced a notable school of Neapolitan Caravaggisti, including Battistello Caracciolo
Battistello Caracciolo
Giovanni Battista Caracciolo was an Italian artist and important Neapolitan follower of Caravaggio....

 and Carlo Sellitto
Carlo Sellitto
Carlo Sellitto was an Italian painter of the Baroque period.One of the most gifted followers of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio , Sellitto played an important role in the spread of Caravaggism to Naples and in the development away from Late Mannerism to a greater naturalism.The son of a painter...

. The Caravaggisti movement there ended with a terrible outbreak of plague in 1656, but the Spanish connection – Naples was a possession of Spain – was instrumental in forming the important Spanish branch of his influence.

A group of Catholic artists from Utrecht
Utrecht (city)
Utrecht city and municipality is the capital and most populous city of the Dutch province of Utrecht. It is located in the eastern corner of the Randstad conurbation, and is the fourth largest city of the Netherlands with a population of 312,634 on 1 Jan 2011.Utrecht's ancient city centre features...

, the "Utrecht Caravaggisti"
Utrecht School
Utrecht Caravaggism refers to those Baroque artists, all distinctly influenced by the art of Caravaggio, who were active mostly in the Dutch city of Utrecht during the early part of the seventeenth century....

, travelled to Rome as students in the first years of the 17th century and were profoundly influenced by the work of Caravaggio, as Bellori describes. On their return to the north this trend had a short-lived but influential flowering in the 1620s among painters like Hendrick ter Brugghen
Hendrick ter Brugghen
Hendrick Jansz ter Brugghen was a Dutch painter, and a leading member of the Dutch followers of Caravaggio — the so-called Dutch Caravaggisti.- Biography :...

, Gerrit van Honthorst, Andries Both
Andries Both
Andries Both , was a Dutch Golden Age genre painter, one of the bamboccianti, and brother of Jan Dirksz Both.Both was born in Utrecht, the son of a glass painter. He studied under Abraham Bloemaert. According to Joachim von Sandrart Andries and his brother Jan cooperated on the paintings, with Jan...

 and Dirck van Baburen
Dirck van Baburen
Dirck Jaspersz. van Baburen was a Dutch painter associated with the Utrecht Caravaggisti.-Biography:Dirck van Baburen was probably born in Wijk bij Duurstede, but his family moved to Utrecht when he was still young. He was also known as Teodoer van Baburen and Theodor Baburen...

. In the following generation the effects of Caravaggio, although attenuated, are to be seen in the work of Rubens (who purchased one of his paintings for the Gonzaga of Mantua and painted a copy of the Entombment of Christ
The Entombment of Christ (Caravaggio)
The Entombment of Christ is a painting by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. It was painted for Santa Maria in Vallicella, a church built for the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri, and adjacent to the buildings of the order...

), Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Velázquez
Diego Velázquez
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez was a Spanish painter who was the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV. He was an individualistic artist of the contemporary Baroque period, important as a portrait artist...

, the last of whom presumably saw his work during his various sojourns in Italy.

Death and rebirth of a reputation


Caravaggio's fame scarcely survived his death. His innovations inspired the Baroque, but the Baroque took the drama of his chiaroscuro without the psychological realism. While he directly influenced the style of the artists mentioned above, and, at a distance, the Frenchmen Georges de La Tour
Georges de La Tour
Georges de La Tour was a French Baroque painter, who spent most of his working life in the Duchy of Lorraine, which was temporarily absorbed into France between 1641 and 1648...

 and Simon Vouet
Simon Vouet
Simon Vouet was a French painter and draftsman, who today is perhaps best remembered for helping to introduce the Italian Baroque style of painting to France.-Life:...

, and the Spaniard Giuseppe Ribera, within a few decades his works were being ascribed to less scandalous artists, or simply overlooked. The Baroque, to which he contributed so much, had evolved, and fashions had changed, but perhaps more pertinently Caravaggio never established a workshop as the Carracci's did, and thus had no school to spread his techniques. Nor did he ever set out his underlying philosophical approach to art, the psychological realism which can only be deduced from his surviving work. Thus his reputation was doubly vulnerable to the critical demolition-jobs,done by two of his earliest biographers, Giovanni Baglione
Giovanni Baglione
Giovanni Baglione was an Italian Late Mannerist and Early Baroque painter and art historian. He is best remembered for his acrimonious involvement with the artist Caravaggio and his writings concerning the other Roman artists of his time.-Early life:A pupil of Francesco Morelli, he worked mainly...

, a rival painter with a personal vendetta, and the influential 17th century critic Giovan Bellori, who had not known him but was under the influence of the French Classicist Poussin
Poussin
Poussin refers to:*Charles Jean de la Vallée-Poussin Belgian mathematician*Charles-Louis-Joseph-Xavier de la Vallée-Poussin Belgian geologist and mineralogist, father of Charles Jean*Nicolas Poussin , French painter...

, who had not known him either but hated his work.

In the 1920s art critic Roberto Longhi
Fondazione Roberto Longhi
Fondazione Roberto Longhi, Via Benedetto Fortini, Florence, is an institute established by Italian scholar Roberto Longhi, who in 1971 left his library, photo library and collection of art "for the benefit of future generations". The headquarters is the villa "Il Tasso" which Longhi acquired in 1939...

 brought Caravaggio's name once more to the foreground, and placed him in the European tradition: "Ribera, Vermeer, La Tour and Rembrandt could never have existed without him. And the art of Delacroix
Eugène Delacroix
Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix was a French Romantic artist regarded from the outset of his career as the leader of the French Romantic school...

, Courbet
Gustave Courbet
Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet was a French painter who led the Realist movement in 19th-century French painting. The Realist movement bridged the Romantic movement , with the Barbizon School and the Impressionists...

 and Manet
Édouard Manet
Édouard Manet was a French painter. One of the first 19th-century artists to approach modern-life subjects, he was a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism....

 would have been utterly different". The influential Bernard Berenson
Bernard Berenson
Bernard Berenson was an American art historian specializing in the Renaissance. He was a major figure in pioneering art attribution and therefore establishing the market for paintings by the "Old Masters".-Personal life:...

 agreed: "With the exception of Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

, no other Italian painter exercised so great an influence."

Oeuvre


Only about 80 paintings by Caravaggio survive, and lost works (or alleged lost works) are found from time to time. One, The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew
The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew
The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew is a painting by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio. It takes its theme from a passage in the Gospel of Matthew describing the moment when Christ called the two brothers Simon – later known as Peter – and Andrew, to be his disciples:As Jesus walked by the...

, was recently authenticated and restored; it had been in storage in Hampton Court, mislabeled as a copy. Richard Francis Burton
Richard Francis Burton
Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS was a British geographer, explorer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer and diplomat. He was known for his travels and explorations within Asia, Africa and the Americas as well as his...

 writes of a "picture of St. Rosario (in the museum of the Grand Duke of Tuscany), showing a circle of thirty men turpiter ligati" which is not known to have survived. The rejected version of The Inspiration of Saint Matthew intended for the Contarelli Chapel
Contarelli Chapel
The Contarelli Chapel, within the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, is famous for housing three paintings on the theme of Saint Matthew the Evangelist by the Baroque master Caravaggio....

 in San Luigi dei Francesi
San Luigi dei Francesi
The Church of St. Louis of the French is a Roman Catholic minor basilica and titular church in Rome, not far from Piazza Navona. The church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, to St. Denis the Areopagite and St. Louis IX, king of France...

 in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 was destroyed during the bombing of Dresden
Bombing of Dresden in World War II
The Bombing of Dresden was a military bombing by the British Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force and as part of the Allied forces between 13 February and 15 February 1945 in the Second World War...

, though black and white photographs of the work exist. In June 2011 it was announced that a previously unknown Caravaggio painting of Saint Augustine dating to about 1600 had been discovered in a private collection in Britain. Called a "significant discovery", the painting had never been published and is thought to have been commissioned by Vincenzo Giustiniani
Vincenzo Giustiniani
thumb|upright|Vincenzo Giustiniani in a portrait by [[Nicolas Régnier]] Marchese Vincenzo Giustiniani was an aristocratic Italian banker, art collector and intellectual of the late 16th and early 17th centuries, known today largely for the Giustiniani art collection, assembled at Palazzo...

, a patron of the painter in Rome.

Epitaph


Caravaggio's epitaph was composed by his friend Marzio Milesi. It reads:

"Michelangelo Merisi, son of Fermo di Caravaggio - in painting not equal to a painter, but to Nature itself - died in Port' Ercole - betaking himself hither from Naples - returning to Rome - 15th calend of August - In the year of our Lord 1610 - He lived thirty-six years nine months and twenty days - Marzio Milesi, Jurisconsult - Dedicated this to a friend of extraordinary genius."

Chronology of major works



External links



Biography
Articles and essays

Art works

Podcasts

Music