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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.