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 CARAVAGGIO

1573-1610   Italian, Baroque
 

One of the Greatest Painters Of All Time

Stylistically influenced by the following painters; Tintoretto, Titian, Paolo Veronese,  Andrea del Verrocchio, Mantegna, and Piero della Francesca

Cause of Death - Malaria worsened by a severe physical assault

   

Biography

Caravaggio's appearance on the local art scene was like a sudden primeval force of nature. He arrived from the countryside with the confidence of a peasant who fears nothing, and has powerful elbows to push everything aside that stands in his way. He loathed the art institutions and insisted that nature should be the only teacher. He scoured the taverns and back alleys in search of his models. Offering a loaf of bread and a drink of wine to the suitably wrinkled and flawed ruffians and beggars, strumpets and gypsies he used in his biblically themed paintings. The artists found delight in toothless faces, torn rags, oozing sores and faces ravaged by leprosy. According to Richard Muther, distinguished art historian "His style of painting is in harsh contrast to the idealized form of the Renaissance. Caravaggio only acknowledged the existence of beauty among the lower classes, and sets himself up as the democratic painter who raised the classes to a place of honor. His St. Mathew is a crude proletariat of uncouth greatness. In his Death of Mary in the Louvre, he paints the corpse of a drowned person wit ha swollen body feet distended in the cramp of death. In his pictures of martyrdoms like that of Sebastian or his Christ Crowned with Thorns, he shows no beautiful youth, but a suffering man whose body is bent with agony. In a painting of Madonna at Loreto a pilgrim with a torn, greasy cap in his hands kneels before her, and another shows his swollen foot soles, besmirched by the dust and dung of the streets. Many of his fellow artists were appalled by his work and denounced him as the Antichrist of painting and the destroyer of art. "

"MICHELANGELO MERSI da CARAVAGGIO was born at Caravaggio near Bergamo. his father was a stone-mason, and as his assistant the son went to Milan and for four years earned his livelihood at his fathers trade. His apprenticeship ended when he stabbed a fellow stone-mason and was forced to flee to Venice. Already skilled with a brush he soon quickly found work within Rome in the studio of Cavaliere d' Arpino, half as an assistant and half as servant. Arpino was known to enjoy the company of handsome teenage boys so there may have been more to their relationship. While in Arpino's employ he was discovered by the painter and art dealer Prospero, who commissioned several paintings from him. One of the painting was purchased by Cardinal del Monte, who developed an interest in young Caravaggio's career. Cavaliere d' Arpino became enraged with jealousy and threw a chamber pot filled with slop on the young painter in the town square. Caravaggio challenged the old letch to a duel but was not allowed to fight because d' Arpino was of noble birth." -- Richard Muther, noted art historian.
 


 

 

 

Caravaggio genius could not be denied and commissions rolled in. Despite his new found wealth and fame the stone-mason could not be transformed into a well mannered academician. With wild comrades he drank heavily in seedy taverns, challenging and fighting, always ready to plunge his dagger into anyone who did not share his opinion about art. After cutting off the tongue of a cobbler who insulted one his paintings, Caravaggio was forced to leave his lucrative commissions behind and wander like a nomad from town to town, sleeping in churches and barns, finally he found his way to Naples.

Caravaggio found inspiration and guidance from his journeys. He longed to become a Knight of Malta. The artist journeyed  to Malta and was awarded the cross of Malta as well as a gold chain and several slaves for a portrait he painted of the Grand Master of the Order. Again his horrible temperament got the best of him. A few days after he was knighted he participated in a drunken brawl and injured one of his fellow Knights so severely that the man lost an nose and an eye. A few days later Caravaggio was found nude, lying in the gutter and was quickly thrown in prison, but soon escaped into Sicily where he painted large alter-pieces in Syracuse, Messina and Palermo. Not until his return to Naples did destiny catch up with him. The knights of Malta  hired thugs who one evening bushwhacked him; blow followed blow, and, brutally assaulted, he resolved to flee to Rome in a boat; for at the mediation of a cardinal the pope had guaranteed him a full pardon. At the docks the surly bleeding man aroused questions. He was taken in for interrogation, until his identify could be verified. When he returned to the harbor his boat had been stolen by local near-do-wells. Striped of all his worldly goods, worn out, hungry and dying, he dragged himself as far as Porto d' Ercole, where he perished from his festering wounds at the age forty.

Caravaggio Interesting Facts


Caravaggio was orphaned at age 11.


Caravaggio sneered at the conventional idealized rendering of sacred themes. He found his models in the taverns, slums and streets of Rome and painted them as they were, blemishes, scars and horrible defects.
 

In April 1604 he was accused of throwing a plate of artichokes in the face of a waiter.

In October 1604 he was arrested for hurling stones at the Roman Guards.


Caravaggio killed a rascal named Ranuccio Tomassoni during a angry fracas over a disputed score in a game of tennis.


Copycat artists who tried to paint like Caravaggio's were known as Caravaggisti.

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References:

Richard Muther, The History of Painting, Henry and Co., London, 1896

 

 

 
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