67 Facts About Caravaggio


Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, known as simply Caravaggio, was an Italian painter active in Rome for most of his artistic life.

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Caravaggio's paintings have been characterized by art critics as combining a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, which had a formative influence on Baroque painting.

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Caravaggio employed close physical observation with a dramatic use of chiaroscuro that came to be known as tenebrism.

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Caravaggio made the technique a dominant stylistic element, transfixing subjects in bright shafts of light and darkening shadows.

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Caravaggio vividly expressed crucial moments and scenes, often featuring violent struggles, torture, and death.

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Caravaggio worked rapidly with live models, preferring to forgo drawings and work directly onto the canvas.

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Caravaggio's inspiring effect on the new Baroque style that emerged from Mannerism was profound.

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Caravaggio trained as a painter in Milan before moving to Rome when he was in his twenties.

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Caravaggio developed a considerable name as an artist and as a violent, touchy and provocative man.

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Caravaggio travelled to Malta and on to Sicily in 1607 and pursued a papal pardon for his sentence.

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Caravaggio died in 1610 under uncertain circumstances while on his way from Naples to Rome.

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Caravaggio's innovations inspired Baroque painting, but the latter incorporated the drama of his chiaroscuro without the psychological realism.

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In 1576 the family moved to Caravaggio to escape a plague that ravaged Milan, and Caravaggio's father and grandfather both died there on the same day in 1577.

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Caravaggio's mother had to raise all of her five children in poverty.

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Caravaggio's later died in 1584, the same year he began his four-year apprenticeship to the Milanese painter Simone Peterzano, described in the contract of apprenticeship as a pupil of Titian.

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Caravaggio appears to have stayed in the Milan-Caravaggio area after his apprenticeship ended, but it is possible that he visited Venice and saw the works of Giorgione, whom Federico Zuccari later accused him of imitating, and Titian.

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Caravaggio would have become familiar with the art treasures of Milan, including Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, and with the regional Lombard art, a style that valued simplicity and attention to naturalistic detail and was closer to the naturalism of Germany than to the stylised formality and grandeur of Roman Mannerism.

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Caravaggio's innovation was a radical naturalism that combined close physical observation with a dramatic, even theatrical, use of chiaroscuro that came to be known as tenebrism .

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Caravaggio left Cesari, determined to make his own way after a heated argument.

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For Del Monte and his wealthy art-loving circle, Caravaggio executed a number of intimate chamber-pieces—The Musicians, The Lute Player, a tipsy Bacchus, an allegorical but realistic Boy Bitten by a Lizard—featuring Minniti and other adolescent models.

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Caravaggio preferred to paint his subjects as the eye sees them, with all their natural flaws and defects, instead of as idealised creations.

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Caravaggio dispensed with the lengthy preparations traditional in central Italy at the time.

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In 1599, presumably through the influence of Del Monte, Caravaggio was contracted to decorate the Contarelli Chapel in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi.

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Caravaggio's tenebrism brought high drama to his subjects, while his acutely observed realism brought a new level of emotional intensity.

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Caravaggio went on to secure a string of prestigious commissions for religious works featuring violent struggles, grotesque decapitations, torture and death.

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The replacement altarpiece commissioned, showed the Virgin not dead, as Caravaggio had painted her, but seated and dying; and even this was rejected, and replaced with a work showing the Virgin not dying, but ascending into Heaven with choirs of angels.

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Caravaggio is unclothed, and it is difficult to accept this grinning urchin as the Roman god Cupid—as difficult as it was to accept Caravaggio's other semi-clad adolescents as the various angels he painted in his canvases, wearing much the same stage-prop wings.

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The point is the intense yet ambiguous reality of the work: it is simultaneously Cupid and Cecco, as Caravaggio's Virgins were simultaneously the Mother of Christ and the Roman courtesans who modeled for them.

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Caravaggio was notorious for brawling, even in a time and place when such behavior was commonplace, and the transcripts of his police records and trial proceedings fill many pages.

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The French ambassador intervened, and Caravaggio was transferred to house arrest after a month in jail in Tor di Nona.

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Caravaggio was sued by a tavern waiter for having thrown a plate of artichokes in his face.

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In 1605, Caravaggio was forced to flee to Genoa for three weeks after seriously injuring Mariano Pasqualone di Accumoli, a notary, in a dispute over Lena, Caravaggio's model and lover.

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Caravaggio's patrons intervened and managed to cover up the incident.

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Out of spite, Caravaggio threw rocks through her window at night and was sued again.

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Caravaggio's patrons had hitherto been able to shield him from any serious consequences of his frequent duels and brawling, but Tommasoni's wealthy family was outraged by his death and demanded justice.

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Caravaggio was sentenced to beheading for murder, and an open bounty was decreed, enabling anyone who recognized him to legally carry the sentence out.

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Caravaggio's paintings began to obsessively depict severed heads, often his own, at this time.

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Caravaggio moved just south of the city, then to Naples, Malta, and Sicily.

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Caravaggio combined all seven works of mercy in one composition, which became the church's altarpiece.

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Caravaggio appears to have facilitated Caravaggio's arrival on the island in 1607 .

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Caravaggio presumably hoped that the patronage of Alof de Wignacourt, Grand Master of the Knights of Saint John, could help him secure a pardon for Tomassoni's death.

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Caravaggio was imprisoned by the Knights at Valletta, but he managed to escape.

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Caravaggio made his way to Sicily where he met his old friend Mario Minniti, who was now married and living in Syracuse.

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In Syracuse and Messina Caravaggio continued to win prestigious and well-paid commissions.

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Caravaggio's style continued to evolve, showing now friezes of figures isolated against vast empty backgrounds.

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Caravaggio displayed bizarre behaviour from very early in his career.

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Bellori writes of Caravaggio's "fear" driving him from city to city across the island and finally, "feeling that it was no longer safe to remain", back to Naples.

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Baglione says Caravaggio was being "chased by his enemy", but like Bellori does not say who this enemy was.

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Caravaggio's style continued to evolve—Saint Ursula is caught in a moment of highest action and drama, as the arrow fired by the king of the Huns strikes her in the breast, unlike earlier paintings that had all the immobility of the posed models.

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Caravaggio's face was seriously disfigured and rumours circulated in Rome that he was dead.

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Caravaggio hoped Borghese could mediate a pardon in exchange for works by the artist.

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Caravaggio had a fever at the time of his death, and what killed him was a matter of controversy and rumour at the time, and has been a matter of historical debate and study since.

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Caravaggio's remains were buried in Porto Ercole's San Sebastiano cemetery, which closed in 1956, and then moved to St Erasmus cemetery, where, in 2010, archaeologists conducted a year-long investigation of remains found in three crypts and after using DNA, carbon dating, and other methods, believe with a high degree of confidence that they have identified those of Caravaggio.

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Caravaggio was rumored to be madly in love with Fillide Melandroni, a well known Roman prostitute who modeled for him in several important paintings.

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Caravaggio denied knowing any young boy of that name, and the allegation was not followed up.

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Lot has been made of Caravaggio's presumed homosexuality, which has in more than one previous account of his life been presented as the single key that explains everything, both the power of his art and the misfortunes of his life.

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The truth is that Caravaggio was as uneasy in his relationships as he was in most other aspects of life.

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Caravaggio worked at great speed, from live models, scoring basic guides directly onto the canvas with the end of the brush handle; very few of Caravaggio's drawings appear to have survived, and it is likely that he preferred to work directly on the canvas.

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Caravaggio himself appears in several paintings, his final self-portrait being as the witness on the far right to the Martyrdom of Saint Ursula.

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Caravaggio had a noteworthy ability to express in one scene of unsurpassed vividness the passing of a crucial moment.

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Baglione's Caravaggio phase was short-lived; Caravaggio later accused him of plagiarism and the two were involved in a long feud.

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Caravaggio's brief stay in Naples produced a notable school of Neapolitan Caravaggisti, including Battistello Caracciolo and Carlo Sellitto.

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Caravaggio's innovations inspired the Baroque, but the Baroque took the drama of his chiaroscuro without the psychological realism.

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The Baroque, to which he contributed so much, had evolved, and fashions had changed, but perhaps more pertinently, Caravaggio never established a workshop as the Carracci did and thus had no school to spread his techniques.

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In June 2011 it was announced that a previously unknown Caravaggio painting of Saint Augustine dating to about 1600 had been discovered in a private collection in Britain.

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Stylistic evidence, as well as the similarity of the models to those in other Caravaggio works, has convinced some experts that the painting is the original Caravaggio 'Ecce Homo' for the 1605 Massimo Massimi commission.

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In 2013, a touring Caravaggio exhibition called "Burst of Light: Caravaggio and His Legacy" opened in the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut.

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