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The following is a list of paintings by the Italian artist Caravaggio, listed chronologically. List of paintings. Painting, Name, Year, Technique, Dimensions.
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- Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da | Grove Art
- Caravaggio (1571-1610)
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- Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi) (1571–1610) and His Followers
With this came the acute observation of physical and psychological reality that 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 and Francesco Boneri , both fellow artists, Minniti appearing as various figures in the early secular works, the young Boneri as a succession of angels, Baptists and Davids in the later canvasses.
His female models include Fillide Melandroni , Anna Bianchini , 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 had a noteworthy ability to express in one scene of unsurpassed vividness the passing of a crucial moment. The Supper at Emmaus 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 hand of the Saint points to himself as if he were saying "who, me? 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. 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. 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.
Gentileschi, despite being considerably older, was the only one of these artists to live much beyond , and ended up as court painter to Charles I of England. His daughter Artemisia Gentileschi 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 his rival Annibale Carracci , blending elements from the High Renaissance and Lombard realism, which ultimately triumphed. Caravaggio's brief stay in Naples produced a notable school of Neapolitan Caravaggisti, including Battistello Caracciolo and Carlo Sellitto.
The Caravaggisti movement there ended with a terrible outbreak of plague in , 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 , the "Utrecht Caravaggisti" , 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 s among painters like Hendrick ter Brugghen , Gerrit van Honthorst , Andries Both and Dirck van Baburen. Caravaggio's 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 and Simon Vouet , 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 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 that may 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 , a rival painter with a personal vendetta, and the influential 17th-century critic Gian Pietro Bellori , who had not known him but was under the influence of the earlier Giovanni Battista Agucchi and Bellori's friend Poussin , in preferring the "classical-idealistic" tradition of the Bolognese school led by the Carracci.
In the s, art critic Roberto Longhi 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 , Courbet and Manet would have been utterly different". Caravaggio's epitaph was composed by his friend Marzio Milesi. 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 — He lived thirty-six years nine months and twenty days — Marzio Milesi, Jurisconsult — Dedicated this to a friend of extraordinary genius.
He was commemorated on the front of the Banca d'Italia , lire banknote in the s and 90s before Italy switched to the Euro with the back showing his Basket of Fruit. There is disagreement as to the size of Caravaggio's oeuvre, with counts as low as 40 and as high as In his biography, Caravaggio scholar Alfred Moir writes "The forty-eight colorplates in this book include almost all of the surviving works accepted by every Caravaggio expert as autograph, and even the least demanding would add fewer than a dozen more".
Richard Francis Burton writes of a "picture of St. Rosario in the museum of the Grand Duke of Tuscany , showing a circle of thirty men turpiter ligati " "lewdly banded" , which is not known to have survived. The rejected version of The Inspiration of Saint Matthew , intended for the Contarelli Chapel in San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome , was destroyed during the bombing of Dresden , though black and white photographs of the work exist.
In June it was announced that a previously unknown Caravaggio painting of Saint Augustine dating to about 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 , a patron of the painter in Rome. A painting believed by some experts to be Caravaggio's second version of Judith Beheading Holofernes , tentatively dated between and , was discovered in an attic in Toulouse in An export ban was placed on the painting by the French government while tests were carried out to establish its provenance.
Francis and St. Lawrence from its frame. Following the theft, Italian police set up an art theft task force with the specific aim of re-acquiring lost and stolen art works. Since the creation of this task force, many leads have been followed regarding the Nativity. Former Italian mafia members have stated that Nativity with St. Lawrence was stolen by the Sicilian mafia and displayed at important mafia gatherings. The whereabouts of the artwork are still unknown. A reproduction currently hangs in its place in the Oratory of San Lorenzo.digerocarfu.gq
Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da | Grove Art
Caravaggio's work has been widely influential in late 20th century American gay culture, with frequent references to male sexual imagery in paintings such as The Musicians and Amor Victorious. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Caravaggio disambiguation. Chalk portrait of Caravaggio by Ottavio Leoni , circa Milan , Duchy of Milan , Spanish Empire . See also: Chronology of works by Caravaggio. Further information: Art theft. See also: Category:Paintings by Caravaggio.
Retrieved 28 July Principe Regnante della Casa di Lichtenstein in Italian. Retrieved Archived from the original on The Genius of Rome, — Royal Academy of Arts. London: Thames and Hudson. Longhi was with Caravaggio on the night of the fatal brawl with Tomassoni; Robb, "M", p. Robb is drawing on Bellori, who praises Caravaggio's "true" colours but finds the naturalism offensive: "He Caravaggio was satisfied with [the] invention of nature without further exercising his brain. The passage continues: "[The younger painters] outdid each other in copying him, undressing their models and raising their lights; and rather than setting out to learn from study and instruction, each readily found in the streets or squares of Rome both masters and models for copying nature.
For a more detailed discussion, see Gash, p. Chaucer Press. See Robb, pp— Life of Caravaggio. Because of the excessive ardour of his spirit Michelangelo was a little wild and he sometimes looked for the chance to break his neck or to risk the lives of others. People as quarrelsome as he were often to be found in his company: and having in the end confronted Ranuccio Tomassoni a well-mannered young man over some disagreement about a tennis match they challenged one another to a duel.
After Ranuccio fell to the ground Michelangelo struck him with the point of his sword and having wounded him in the thigh killed him. London: Telegraph. Retrieved 28 November Caravaggio stayed in Costanza's palazzo on his return to Naples in These connections are treated in most biographies and studies—see, for example, Catherine Puglisi, "Caravaggio", p. Helen Langdon, "Caravaggio: A Life", ch. Caravaggio: an artist through images. ATS Italia Editrice. Retrieved 28 June Renaissance and Reformation. Marshall Cavendish. From heaven to Arcadia: the sacred and the profane in the Renaissance.
New York Review of Books. Paragone Arte. LII : 3— He was elected to the Accademia di S Luca c — Caravaggio: Martyrdom of St Matthew , oil on canvas, 3. In the two St Matthew histories Caravaggio created a new and emotive combination that remained fundamental to his art: realistic figure types allied to bold chiaroscuro see also Tenebrism. The pictures appear to relate to two alternative kinds of studio lighting used by Caravaggio during the ensuing years: sunlight from a high side window, as seen in the Calling , and illumination in a dark room from a lamp placed high above the models, which may have been employed in the Martyrdom.
It is likely, however, that he resorted to both procedures, sometimes within a single painting. The fact that Caravaggio always lit his models from above indicates that he was well aware that such lighting enhances three-dimensionality. Indeed, unlike several of his imitators, particularly such northern painters as Honthorst, he rarely used an internal light source, as this type of radiance flattens the appearance of forms.
In the Calling the main source of illumination is high up on the right, in the Martyrdom on the left. This corresponds to the direction of the action in both pictures, with the light in them intended to mimic the daylight entering the chapel from a window above the altar — as is made specific in the Calling by a widening beam of light that slants across the back wall.
The light in both cases can be read either as a symbol, or even the agent, of the divine will. In the Martyrdom the pools of light that pick out the saint and his assassin alike, as well as parts of the sinuous angel who leans down from a cloud to hand Matthew his palm of martyrdom, forcefully convey the idea of heavenly sanction for this second and final harvesting of the saint back to God. At the same time Caravaggio is skilful in his location of scatterings of light to signpost individual indicators of dramatic response and shape the overall pattern of the action.
Indeed, he used light as much to convey human alarm at the workings of providence as the nature of the Godhead itself. It is only one of many examples of dramatic irony in his art. This dramatic flair, which would often override the finer points of iconography without subverting the central significance of the subject, extended to the inclusion of his self-portrait in religious pictures. In the Martyrdom this takes the form of a conceit: Caravaggio, as one of the fleeing crowd, looks back over his shoulder to witness the holy mystery and his own mastery in recreating it.
The Contarelli narratives are great pieces of theatre, paralleling the pyrotechnics of the Elizabethan—Jacobean stage and heralding the theatricality of High Baroque art. Their consummate illusion is to make it appear as if sacred events are taking place in the space of the chapel. Caravaggio: Conversion of St Paul , oil on canvas, 2. The Crucifixion of St Peter —?
Caravaggio may have intensified his illusionism in the Cerasi Chapel out of rivalry with Annibale Carracci, who had been commissioned to do the altarpiece, the Assumption of the Virgin.
Each artist asserted the distinctiveness of his approach, with Annibale pushing his fondness for Raphaelesque idealization, even lighting and colouristic delicacy to a new pitch, and Caravaggio countering with his vigorous anti-classicism. What precisely it was about this attractively coloured, if somewhat Mannerist, composition that failed to please remains conjectural.
In the early s, flushed with success, Caravaggio pursued his at times provocative agenda in a succession of altarpieces for side chapels in churches and easel paintings for private collectors. However, his ostentatious rhetoric of the real was not always to the liking of church authorities, who considered that many of the sacred figures lacked decorum.
Three out of five of the altarpieces that he delivered between and were either rejected outright or soon taken down: St Matthew and the Angel , commissioned on 7 February to complete his work on the Contarelli Chapel ex-Kaiser-Friedrich Mus. Only the Entombment —4 ; Rome, Pin. Vaticana for the Vittrice Chapel in the Chiesa Nuova and the Madonna of Loreto or Madonna of the Pilgrims , —5 ; Rome, S Agostino prospered, both destined to become highly popular devotional works, not least with the poor. Caravaggio was given a freer rein to pursue his experiments by a number of sympathetic and wealthy private collectors, notably Vincenzo Giustiniani, who bought the rejected first version of St Matthew and the Angel , and the Roman nobleman Ciriaco Mattei.
In the first half of Caravaggio moved into the palace owned jointly by Ciriaco and his brothers Asdrubale and Cardinal Bernardino, probably staying there until his imprisonment for several months in the summer of , when he was involved in a libel trial for writing scurrilous verses about Giovanni Baglione.
He seems to have spent the rest of his Roman sojourn in rented accommodation, punctuated by very brief trips to the Marches around the turn of —4 , allegedly to paint an unidentified altarpiece for the Capuchin church of S Maria di Costantinapoli in Tolentino, and to Genoa for two weeks in early August , to escape arrest for wounding a notary. Caravaggio: Supper at Emmaus , oil on canvas, 1. Capitolina , and the Taking of Christ ; Dublin, N. Both the Supper and the Incredulity of St Thomas are replete with virtuoso naturalistic flourishes and, in their desire for immediacy of dramatic impact, pay scant regard to the niceties of decorum.
In the Supper , an obsession with displaying his skill at foreshortening and still-life painting tempted Caravaggio into what may appear as a number of transgressions, whether of convention or logic — from the inclusion of a basket of fruit seasonal to the autumn of when the picture was painted, but not to Easter when the episode is meant to have occurred, to the fact that it is perched implausibly over the front edge of the table. The St John , however, is also the first in a succession of increasingly serious single-figure paintings of this saint, which became the vehicle for the study of the young male nude e.
These paintings are paralleled by a series of studies of St Jerome that enabled Caravaggio to explore the appearance of age —6 , Rome, Gal. Caravaggio: Entombment , oil on canvas, 3. The quality of ritualistic mime that Caravaggio thereby brings to his gripping tableaux vivants has much in common with the modern theatre.
In addition, the female-looking angel who nestles up against the gormless saint and guides his hand in its writing has been made masculine and banished to a respectable distance up in the sky. According to different accounts, Caravaggio had used either a live or drowned prostitute as his model — and there is certainly a corpse-like cast to his plain and bloated Virgin, with her lower legs exposed to reveal swollen ankles and twisted toes. In his replacement —12 ; Rome, S Maria della Scala Carlo Saraceni prettified her countenance and covered her legs.
The Madonna of the Serpent , a work that symbolizes the extirpation of heresy, was also thought to be flawed in its characterization of sacred figures. Bellori, again, was surely right when he pinpointed the vulgar depiction of the Virgin and the nude Christ Child. However, it is not always clear who it was within the individual church establishments, or perhaps even from higher ecclesiastical authority, who insisted on the unacceptability of these works.
The picaresque saga culminated in his fateful killing of Ranuccio Tommasoni in Rome, on 29 May , during a brawl or a duel occasioned by a disputed bet on a game of tennis — an event that forced him to flee the city under threat of capital punishment. Caravaggio fled for protection to the estates owned by his Milanese feudal lords, the Colonna, south-east of Rome at Paliano, Zagarolo, and Palestrina , apparently painting while there a second version of the Supper at Emmaus ; Milan, Brera and a Magdalene usually identified with a lost Magdalene in Ecstasy known through copies; see Cinotti, , pl.
Comparison of the Brera Supper with the earlier version London, N. In the later picture gesture is more restrained, and sensuous surface detail gives way to a much darker pictorial field, on which only essential objects or actions are highlighted. The brushwork is more fluid and expresses mood and atmosphere while enhancing pictorial unity.
Although this characteristic had begun to manifest itself in the later Roman years e. He travelled from the Colonna estates to Naples, where he stayed from before 6 October to early July His last years were ones of considerable artistic experiment, and if pictures such as the Madonna of the Rosary Vienna, Ksthist.
The Madonna of the Rosary is both more lightly coloured and somewhat more idealized than the generally gloomy pictures done in Naples in the wake of the Brera Supper. In these pictures Caravaggio maintained and even extended his passion for foregrounding his figures with bold foreshortenings against dark backgrounds, so preventing the eye from wandering too far into depth. Dramatic impact remains a top priority — so much so that the crowded Seven Works of Mercy is, in its complex, dynamic illusionism, perhaps the first fully Baroque altarpiece.
These paintings are also distinguished by a new, unblinking sobriety of mood. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio: Beheading of St. John the Baptist , oil on canvas, 3. Caravaggio travelled next to Malta, in order to become a Knight of St John, and stayed there from 12 July to early October He was elected a Knight of Obedience of the Order of St John on 14 July , and the huge, horizontal Beheading of St John the Baptist , which he executed for the oratory of the conventual church, now co-cathedral, in Valletta in was probably his obligatory gift of passage into the Order.
However, after a brawl involving seven Knights in the house of Fra Prospero Coppini on 18 August , in which one of their number, Fra Giovanni Rodomonte Roero, Conte della Vezza di Asti, was seriously wounded, Caravaggio was imprisoned. He escaped and fled to Sicily. Although he was under a capital sentence of banishment from Rome, he was never actively pursued by the papal authorities, and it is only at this point that a genuine threat arose to exacerbate his inner demons. For it is likely that certain Knights pursued him in search of revenge.
Bellori wrote of fear hunting him from place to place, and he made a fairly rapid progress around the Sicilian coast: to Syracuse Oct—?
In these Maltese and Sicilian canvases Caravaggio reiterated and expanded the empty space introduced in the Naples Flagellation , transforming the upper part of the picture into an assertive void. In three of them the Beheading , the Burial of St Lucy , and the Adoration of the Shepherds it is accompanied by a greater perspectival depth. These new spatial modes are finely tuned to another development: the location of figures back from the picture plane, usually in tightly knit geometric groupings in which they are bound to each other with a minimum of gesture e.
Figures are now smaller in relation to the setting and, because of this and their loss of assertive individuality, more insignificant. These pictures attain a new emotional intensity, conveyed primarily by an almost total abandonment of any but the most essential gestures and a corresponding channeling of feeling into restrained postures and intense facial expressions.
The downcast gaze, always a favourite of Caravaggio but now imbued with a deeper sense of melancholy and pathos, becomes a leitmotif. In the Maltese and Sicilian altarpieces it acquires added resonance from the fact that the focus of attention for the onlookers is invariably on or near the ground: the corpses of St John, St Lucy, and Lazarus or the figure of the Christ Child in the Messina Adoration. In the Sicilian paintings Caravaggio may have been encouraged in this path of humility by the fact that most were done for Mendicant churches Capuchins; Franciscans.
But he equally took advantage of the archetypal subject-matter to transform them into more generalized discourses on life and death. Caravaggio returned to Naples in September or October Real, Madrid, or, more likely, that in the N. Despite this near fatal incident, Caravaggio produced a remaining handful of masterpieces, mainly towards the end of this second Neapolitan period; his one altarpiece, for the Fenaroli Chapel of the church of S Anna dei Lombardi, a Resurrection , was apparently destroyed in , although it may be reflected in the Resurrection by Louis Finson ; Aix-en-Provence, St Jean-de-Malte.
Borghese , all c , he kept the figures well up towards the picture plane and filling much of the canvas. In one very late work, however, the Martyrdom of St Ursula before 11 May ; Naples, Banca Commerciale Italiana for Marcantonio Doria, he combined a fully foregrounded relief of figures with an echoing void above their heads. For the head of Goliath, proffered to the viewer by David, who glances down at it with a sad perhaps valedictory look, bears the features of Caravaggio himself — ravaged, as might be expected by the summer of The St John formed part of the cargo Caravaggio had with him as he sailed north in July ; the David may have been sent to Rome in advance or left behind in Naples for the time being.
In such a context, the David with the Head of Goliath acquires an altogether new significance — as a characteristically pungent conceit, with Caravaggio offering up to the art-loving Borghese his fictive head instead of the real one that he might have been obliged to forfeit. But he was not to enjoy the pleasure of delivering it in person. When his boat put in to Porto Ercole, Caravaggio was mistaken for someone else and arrested.
Although released after two days, he died of fever within a week. Visual and technical analysis alike confirm the essential accuracy of this account. There are precedents for such approaches both as regards lighting and the use of models. However, their combination and sustained application by Caravaggio in his mature religious art did constitute a significantly novel agenda, especially when viewed, as he surely intended, in opposition to the more idealized formulation of the human figure and more calculated articulation of movement that his great classicizing contemporary Annibale Carracci arrived at through extensive use of preparatory drawings and then subjected to a generally much more even lighting in his finished paintings.
Not one drawing by Caravaggio has been identified, although a study of an arm and part of a torso attributed to his master, Peterzano, is so close to the Sick Little Bacchus as to give one pause. Caravaggio undoubtedly limited his drawing to the most ephemeral of compositional studies, which he discarded as soon as they had served their purpose as guides to the posing of models from whom he would then paint.
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There is some evidence that such procedures were not altogether unknown in northern Italy during the 16th century, especially in a Venice that reputedly advocated the primacy of painting over drawing. But the precise nature of Venetian practice and the extent, therefore, to which Caravaggio may have pushed it to extremes, remains conjectural. His devotion to the medium of oil paint was also rooted in Venetian priorities, although Caravaggio went further than most of his north Italian precursors in totally avoiding fresco.
The weaves vary greatly over the course of his career to include almost all of those available at the time. The Vienna David was painted on top of a pre-existing Mannerist-style picture of vertical alignment, but Caravaggio turned it on its side, in keeping with his regular preference for the horizontal in private commissions of more than one figure. This may have been related to the greater ease with which posed models could be accommodated to such a format.
Caravaggio seems often in his early years in Rome to have employed a grey or grey—green ground characteristic of 16th-century Lombard painters such as Moretto, Moroni, and Peterzano. Schneider restorer, and contributor to the —2 monographic exh. Whatever the case, the presence of grey immediately beneath the final picture layer in these works now seems agreed and plays a part in determining the comparatively light tonality of the finished paint surface.
At some point Caravaggio switched wholesale to darker grounds — especially the reddish-brown that was favoured by those in contemporary Roman circles including Arpino and was to become almost universal in the 17th century. But it is likely that Caravaggio experimented occasionally with brown grounds at a very early stage e. They helped to absorb the middle tones and intensify shadows — the former enhancing tonal unity, the latter augmenting the effect of relief by establishing sharper contrasts with the strongly lit areas.
In later years, when he worked more rapidly and was less concerned with finish, he allowed the ground to show through in several places and to act as a middle tone in its own right. They can be made up of several different colours as in the Detroit Magdalene , thereby engendering some very vibrant effects. While the overall appearance in his middle years was, more often than not, of a deep reddish-brown as in the London Supper at Emmaus , it could also veer more towards umber or even pure red as in the Capitoline St John. Towards the end of his career, he sometimes opted for even darker grounds, which included a good deal of black e.
That Caravaggio used two principal techniques for establishing the outlines of his figures on the ground, brush drawing in a light value and incisions with a sharp instrument such as a stylus, is confirmed by X-rays, infra-red reflectography, raking light, and the evidence of the naked eye. The fact that both procedures are evident only along certain contours does not necessarily imply that they were not more extensive.
Some of the lines may be concealed by paint, which is, in several instances, impervious to X-ray. Indeed, the brush-drawn outlines are likely to have extended throughout the composition. The incised lines are more problematical. Yet this might simply be due to the fact that so few 16th- and 17th-century pictures have been examined with a view to finding them. While the latter procedure could have been an established one and had certainly been followed by ancient Roman wall painters , the former may have been a relative novelty generated by his practice of working directly from the model.
The evidence for Caravaggio having painted directly from models is more substantial than the speculation about the role of incisions. In the first instance, he clearly used the same model for different pictures — most unequivocally in the St Catherine and the Conversion of the Magdalene. Correspondingly, there is a succession of strikingly different models for the same character in different pictures.
Such a policy did not prevent him from making minor adjustments to their features to improve characterization. Indeed, X-ray and infra-red photographs of one picture, the Sacrifice of Isaac c ; Florence, Uffizi , seem to indicate that he used the same model in two different poses for the figures of both Isaac and the angel, modifying his features considerably on the final paint surface, especially for the angel.
It is doubtful, however, that this was his normal practice as regards facial appearance. It seems to have been determined in this instance by the apparently unusual circumstance of him using the same model for different figures within a single painting. This case raises equally fundamental and as yet unanswered questions as to whether Caravaggio always painted from one model at a time, and then collaged the individual life studies together, or whether, as might be assumed, he sometimes posed more than one figure.
Indeed, it is difficult to imagine him not resorting at some stage in the pictorial process to group posing in order to calculate the full effects of composition and lighting. The comparatively few surviving works by Caravaggio need not suggest that he was a slow worker. The grainy texture of a number of pictures suggests that he used a drying agent perhaps litharge in order to expedite production. For all that, his early and middle period works are immaculately finished, in the best Lombard traditions.
The degree of smooth-finished detail that he achieved would have been possible only with a fluid oil medium probably linseed , perhaps diluted with turpentine, and applied with soft brushes. The paint surface in the early works, however, tends to be thinner than in the usually dense application of his maturity. It is especially evident in his handling of draperies, not least in the multidirectional and fluid brushstrokes of such early works as the Concert of Youths and the Ecstasy of St Francis ; or in the green drape of the Magdalene in the Detroit Conversion , where he built the colour effect out of juxtaposed patches of variously brushed colour, rather than through his usual superimposition.
Such effects go hand-in-hand with an equally Venetian concern with beautiful colour chords. Several of the works of the s are distinguished by an almost equal fascination with both colour and texture, and while both are, at least superficially, subordinated in the middle years to tone and finish, closer inspection often reveals even there beautifully subtle passages of colour and a controlled mastery of the interaction of smooth, glazed areas with brief flourishes of impasto or dexterously free brushwork.
By then he had abandoned his previous obsession with the minute imitation of nature, opting instead for a much freer technique. It is as if his masterly brush-drawing method, originally used primarily for preparatory purposes, had come to the surface and dictated the aesthetic tenor of the image. A mixture of free-flowing and sporadic brushwork allows the priming to show through in several places, acting as a middle tone. Impastoed highlights and glazed shadows are applied in a bold, schematic fashion that is highly evocative of form when seen from a distance, but almost abstract at close quarters.
The pools of shadow overlaying eye sockets, for example, become either like Giant Panda markings, barely translucent, or like ragged stains, while the highlights that indicate their raised surrounds are regular, broad sweeps of impastoed white. Earths and ochres predominated, and brighter colours were always veiled. While he obviously mixed colours both on the palette and the canvas , he tended to keep his pigments pure and extended this habit to his treatment of shadows, where he usually darkened with deeper tints of the underlying object rather than with some other dark colour. His fiery temper, arbitrary behaviour, propensity for violence, and bohemian way of life are amply documented in strictly contemporary records.
His subsequent 17th-century aesthetic detractors especially Bellori had no need of exaggeration when they invoked his remarkably unstable mentality in explanation of his, to them, deviant art. Yet it is important to guard against reductive interpretations: his demonization by 17th-century critics was by turns crude and subtle, and modern assessments can be equally one-track, either in the inclination to brand him a psychopath or in the tendency to give centre-stage to what has been described in some modern historiography as his possible homosexuality.
The few contemporary characterizations were, for the most part, neither precise nor judgemental. It always implies a transgression of normal behaviour, but this can assume many forms, from foibles and mild eccentricities to actions bordering on, and crossing, the threshold of sanity.
It is often used indulgently in connection with the artistic temperament.
Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi) (1571–1610) and His Followers
Neither can such views be dismissed as the spiteful gossip of the Roman intelligentsia. Some of the details of this account are verifiable from trial records and newspaper reports. The former show that Caravaggio was brought to trial no less than 11 times between October and September The charges ranged widely. They included beating an acquaintance with a stick; wounding with a sword or hunting-knife twice ; throwing stones twice, including once at the window of his ex-landlady ; throwing a plate of artichokes at a waiter whom he deemed to have insulted him; carrying a sword and dagger without a licence; swearing crudely at a constable; and, together with the painter Orazio Gentileschi and the architect Onorio Longhi, writing satirical verses about the painter Baglione.
He moved in a bohemian circle, which included soldiers of the papal guard, a bookseller, a perfumier, and the Brescian painter Prospero Orsi, as well as Longhi and Gentileschi. Its members often accompanied him on his perambulations and were always among the first to give evidence in his favour or bail him out when he was apprehended. There is no reason to believe that Caravaggio was the undisputed leader of the clique, and some to show that others, such as Onorio Longhi, played an equally prominent part.
The bold contrasts of his chiaroscuro, the sharp intensity of his characterizations, and his insistence on the superiority of the seen over the ideal do not seem unconnected with his uncompromising way of seeing the world in terms of polarities, and other people as either for him or against him. They have no simple explanation. Art Museums. Art Market. Image Archives.
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