Caravaggio Boy With a Basket of Fruit 1593

Caravaggio – 7 Interesting Facts

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Caravaggio is known as “The Most Famous Painter in Rome” and the father of the Italian Baroque style. An artist who never lacked patrons or commissions, his works were known across Rome, Malta, Sicily, and Naples. He is also known as a man who led a troubled and tumultuous life. Here are 7 important facts:

1. Caravaggio is not the artist’s true name.

    • He was born as Michelangelo Merisi. He is also known as Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.
    • Caravaggio took his moniker from a small town in northern Italy, near Milan where he was born.
Caravaggio The Sacrifice of Isaac 1603
A very dynamic and moving depiction of the biblical story, The Sacrifice of Isaac, 1603

2. The world during his early years was marked with violence and instability.

    • The Battle of Lepanto took place one week after Caravaggio’s birth, wherein the Turkish invaders were driven out of Christendom during a bloody conflict.
    • He was six years-old when a bubonic plague killed most of his family, including his father.
Caravaggio The Incredulity of Saint Thomas 1601–1602
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, 1601–1602, is a visual representation of the term “Doubting Thomas”

3. Caravaggio’s style was very popular, but also heavily criticized.

    • He applied heavy use of shadow to emphasize lighter areas, giving his paintings dramatic lighting. This mastery of chiaroscuro was crucial in developing the tenebrism technique he is known for.
    • Caravaggio is also known for depicting figures in a radically realistic style. Some of his patrons were upset by this and returned his works to be redone.
Caravaggio Saint John the Baptist 1602
One of at least eight paintings of Saint John The Baptist, 1602

4. His choice of subjects was quite controversial.

    • Caravaggio’s only known assistant, a boy named Cecco, appears in a number of his early works and may have also been his lover.
    • The biblical scenes he was commissioned to paint were populated with beggars, thieves, and prostitutes.
Caravaggio Boy With a Basket of Fruit 1593
Caravaggio painted Boy With a Basket of Fruit in 1593 using his 16-year old friend and companion as a model

5. Caravaggio’s depictions of religious scenes and biblical figures were dark instead of worshipful.

    • In his famous painting “Death of the Virgin”, the Virgin Mary is painted with bared legs and a swollen belly.
    • In one of his later paintings entitled “Resurrection”, Jesus Christ was depicted bedraggled and escaping his tomb in the dead of night.
Caravaggio The Death of the Virgin 1606
Caravaggio’s The Death of the Virgin, 1606

6. He was also known for being a violent man who frequently engaged in fights and arguments.

    • Caravaggio fled Rome after killing a well-known pimp. Historians believe the attack was caused by Caravaggio’s lust for the pimp’s wife.
    • He escaped from jail after attacking a high-ranking knight in Malta. The knight followed Caravaggio and tried to kill him, leaving his face disfigured.

7. Even the end of Caravaggio’s life is marked with tragedy.

    • To avoid punishment for murder, he sailed to Rome to seek pardon from the Pope, bringing three paintings as a peace offering. He mysteriously died soon after his arrival at Port Ercole.
    • In 2010, scientists found remains believed to be Caravaggio’s, containing high levels of lead. They suspect lead poisoning caused both the painter’s madness and his death.
Caravaggio Judith Beheading Holofernes 1598–1599
Judith Beheading Holofernes, 1598–1599, is a gruesome depiction of the decapitation of the Assyrian general in his tent

Despite the controversy that followed Caravaggio throughout his life, he remains to be one of the pioneers of modern painting. The undaunted realism in his works was unequaled by his peers and served as an inspiration for many future master painters.

References

Biography
Wiki Art
Caravaggio Gallery

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