Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da
The name taken from his birthplace by Michelangelo Merisi or Amerighi (1571–1610), an Italian painter. He was trained in Milan by an undistinguished Mannerist. By 1593 he was in Rome working for other painters, very poor and already appearing in police records as a bravo. In about 1596 his fortunes changed dramatically. Some of his paintings were bought by the influential Cardinal del Monte and he was commissioned to paint a series of large religious paintings for the Contarelli chapel, S. Luigi de' Francesi. Previous to this Caravaggio has painted some of the 1st true still-lifes, notably The Basket of Fruit, a series of paintings of a model as 'Bacchus', The Musical Party and a masterly double half-portrait of a man and woman entitled The Fortune Teller, which obviously owes something to Giorgione in subject and composition, though the lighting and feeling reveal a quite new and original talent.
For the Contarelli chapel Caravaggio painted an altarpiece, St Matthew and an Angel, and 2 large canvases for the side walls, The Calling of St Matthew and The Martyrdom of St Matthew. These pictures caused a sensation. The 'St Matthew' (original destroyed 1945) of the altarpiece was considered vulgar and sacrilegious by the clergy and Caravaggio painted the 2nd version, still in the church. Other major works of the period are The Conversion of St Paul, The Martyrdom of St Paul for S. Maria del Popolo, The Supper at Emmaus, The Death of the Virgin and The Deposition of Christ. At the height of his success Caravaggio killed a companion in a brawl and had to flee Rome. The last years of his life consisted of short periods of asylum, spent painting, at Naples, in Malta and Sicily. Each period ended in a brawl and renewed flight. Wounded in Palermo he reached Porto Ercole where he died. Although recent scholarship has modified Caravaggio's reputation as a revolutionary, he remains one of the true innovators. He declared early in his career that he had rejected the Renaissance search for the ideal and would study no teacher but nature. His method of painting directly from the model and his choice of models from low life, presented just as they were even in his large religious works, were both complete breaks with tradition. However, to consider him a realist before his time is to miss his other innovation: a heightening of dramatic effect by the use of lighting that was always contrived and often highly artificial showing his emphatic sense of chiaroscuro. Attacked by many, his works were protected by powerful patrons during his life and after his death. The imitation of his work inspired a school of painting in Spain, the Caravaggisti, and led to the art of Velazquez. In N. Europe he had even more followers; the most directly affected were De La Tour in France and Honthorst in Holland and Rembrandt learned much from him.
We're sorry this article wasn't helpful. Tell us how we can improve.