Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da

   Caravaggio was probably born in Milan. In 1572, he is documented in the town of Caravaggio where his family owned property, hence his name. In 1588-1592, he apprenticed with Simone Peterzano, a Milanese painter thought to have been a pupil of Titian. After his apprenticeship ended, Caravaggio and his brother went to Rome and, on the way there, they stopped in Venice where the artist had the opportunity to study the works of Titian, Giorgione, Tintoretto, and other local masters. When they arrived in Rome, Caravaggio's brother entered a Jesuit seminary, and he entered in the service of the Cavaliere D'Arpino, a Mannerist painter favored by Pope Clement VIII. There, his main task was to paint still-life elements. Among the works he rendered while in Arpino's studio are his Boy with Basket of Fruits, Bacchino Malato (both 1594; Rome, Galleria Borghese), and Boy Bitten by a Lizard (1595-1596; London, National Gallery). These three paintings were purchased by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, Pope Paul V's nephew, from Arpino. They were considered quite innovative at the time in that they presented common figure types placed as close to the foreground as possible, in half-length format, set against an undefined background, with dramatic use of chiaroscuro — elements then rare in art. Caravaggio fell seriously ill while in Arpino's studio and was hospitalized for an extended period of time. After leaving the hospital, he began to peddle his paintings in the streets of Rome, the first artist known to do so.
   Sometime in the early to mid-1590s, Caravaggio came into contact with Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, who offered him lodging in his home. The first painting del Monte purchased from Caravaggio was the Cardsharps (1595-1596; Fort Worth, Kimball Museum of Art), also unusual for its theme and visual qualities. Caravaggio's Bacchus of 1595-1596 (Florence, Uffizi) belongs to this period as well, an unclassicized version of the god of wine with cheeks flushed from drinking. In front of him are fruits in various states of ripeness, an element the Dutch Baroque masters would later adopt as a vanitas symbol. Bacchus is shown with all his imperfections. He is short and stocky, with dark brows and hair, and dirty fingernails. Caravaggio's Concert of Youths (1595; New York, Metropolitan Museum), which also falls in this period of his career, shows similar crude figure types engaged in music making.
   Among Caravaggio's earliest religious works are his Rest on the Flight into Egypt (c. 1594; Rome, Galleria Doria-Pamphili), Judith Beheading Holofernes (c. 1598; Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica), St. Catherine of Alexandria (1598; Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection), and Supper at Emmaus (1600; London, National Gallery). These works served well the demands of the Counter-Reformation. The immediacy of the figures, emphatic gestures, and dramatic lighting effects demand the emotional involvement of the viewer. St. Catherine and Judith are depicted as heroines, the one willing to die for the sake of the faith, the other risking her life to deliver her people from the enemy. The Supper at Emmaus portrays a scene of recognition of the true faith, an appropriate subject in an era when the Church sought to prevent the spread of Protestantism. In 1599, Caravaggio received his first public commission, the Contarelli Chapel in the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome, a huge success that gained him international fame. In 1600, the commission for the Cerasi Chapel at Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome, followed. By now, the connoisseur Marchese Vincenzo Giustiniani had become Caravaggio's most ardent supporter, and it was for him that the artist painted the Amor Vincit Omnia (1601-1602; Berlin, Gemäldegalerie), a work that speaks of the power of love over reason and that prompted visual responses from other masters, including Giovanni Baglione.
   In 1605-1606, Caravaggio painted the Death of the Virgin (Paris, Louvre) for the chapel of Laerzio Cherubini at Santa Maria della Scala, Rome. The painting was rejected because it presented the Virgin as a decomposing corpse with bare feet and bloated features. Soon after its completion, Caravaggio murdered a man over a wager on a tennis match. In the process, he was badly wounded in the head. After recovering in the Roman countryside, he spent the rest of his years moving from Naples to Malta to Sicily. In Naples, Caravaggio painted the Seven Acts of Mercy (1606) for the Church of the Madonna della Misericordia and the Flagellation of Christ (1607; Naples, Museo di Capodimonte) for the DeFranchis family. This last shows a more spontaneous brushwork than in his Roman works and a softening of the earlier sharp diagonals. His Beheading ofSt. John the Baptist (1608) he painted in Malta, for the Church of St. John in Valetta. He was forced to flee from Malta after he attacked a nobleman, and moved to Messina, Sicily, where he painted his Raising of Lazarus (1609; Messina, Museo Nazionale). Among his last works is the David with the Head of Goliath (1610; Rome, Galleria Borghese), a painting of tremendous psychological depth, perhaps reflective of the mood Caravaggio was in from constantly running from the law.
   In 1610, Pope Paul V pardoned Caravaggio for the murder charges in Rome and summoned him back. When Caravaggio landed on the southern border of Tuscany to enter Rome, he was mistakenly seized and imprisoned. As a result, he caught a fever and died a few days later, never reaching his final destination. Caravaggio's art exerted tremendous impact in the history of art. Although his popularity had waned in Italy by the early 1620s, in the rest of Europe his style spread like wildfire. Caravaggism was adopted by Rembrandt and the Utrecht Caravaggists in the Netherlands, Peter Paul Rubens in Flanders, and George de la Tour and the Le Nain brothers in France, to name only a few.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Caravaggio,Michelangelo Merisi da — Ca·ra·vag·gio (kăr ə väʹjō, kä rä vädʹjō), Michelangelo Merisi da. 1573 1610. Italian painter of the baroque whose influential works, such as Deposition of Christ (1604), are marked by intense realism and revolutionary use of light. * * * …   Universalium

  • CARAVAGGIO (MICHELANGELO MERISI) — (1571 1610) One of the most influential Italian painters of the seventeenth century, Mi­chelangelo da Caravaggio, so called after the Lombard hometown of his family, where he spent much of his youth, is almost equally as notorious for his… …   Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary

  • Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi o Amerighi, llamado el — ► (1573? 1610) Pintor italiano. Al academicismo de la escuela boloñesa de los Carracci, Guido Reni y Dominichino, opuso un realismo crudo, con un acentuado gusto por el claroscuro (realismo tenebrista), que influyó en todas las escuelas del s.… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi/Amerighi da —  (c. 1569–1609) Italian painter …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • Michelangelo Merisi — Porträt Caravaggios von Ottavio Leoni Michelangelo Merisi (nach dem Herkunftsort seiner Familie kurz Caravaggio genannt; * 29. September 1571 in Mailand in der Lombardei; † 18. Juli 1610 in Porto Ercole am Monte Argentario) w …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio — Porträt Caravaggios von Ottavio Leoni Michelangelo Merisi (nach dem Herkunftsort seiner Familie kurz Caravaggio genannt; * 29. September 1571 in Mailand in der Lombardei; † 18. Juli 1610 in Porto Ercole am Monte Argentario) w …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio — Posthumes Porträt Caravaggios von Ottavio Leoni, um 1614 Michelangelo Merisi, nach dem Herkunftsort seiner Eltern kurz Caravaggio genannt (* 29. September 1571 in Mailand; † 18. Juli 1610 in Porto Ercole am Monte Argentario), war ein… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio — Le Caravage Pour les articles homonymes, voir Caravage. Le Caravage …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Michelangelo Merisi — Le Caravage Pour les articles homonymes, voir Caravage. Le Caravage …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio — noun Italian painter noted for his realistic depiction of religious subjects and his novel use of light (1573 1610) • Syn: ↑Caravaggio • Instance Hypernyms: ↑old master …   Useful english dictionary

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