50 Greatest Paintings
100 Greatest Painters
Studied Under Simone Peterzano
One of the Greatest Painters Of All Time
Stylistically influenced by the following painters;
Cause of Death - Malaria worsened by a severe physical assault
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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Richard Muther, The History of Painting, Henry and Co., London, 1896