Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- 'Caravaggio' re-directs here; for alternate uses see Caravaggio (disambiguation)
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610), usually called simply Caravaggio after his hometown near Milan, was an Italian Baroque painter, whose large religious works portrayed saints and other biblical figures as ordinary people. Though these paintings were controversial in the church, the wealthy purchased them for their drama, their spectacular technical accomplishment, their startling originality, and even their brazen homoeroticism. Though his life (1571 -1610) nearly coincides with that of William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616), it is hard to imagine two artists whose worlds were more distinct.
Little is known about Caravaggio's artistic origins, or early work. He studied for several years with the obscure painter Peterzano in Milan, to whom he was apprenticed at age 12 in 1584, but the earliest known work which can be reliably attributed to him dates from almost 10 years later, by which time he had likely been in Rome for several years. His whereabouts in the intervening period are disputed, but it is not unusual for there to be major biographical gaps in what we know of painters from so long ago.
When Caravaggio finally arrived in Rome, he suffered the vicissitudes of an unattached young man from the provinces, unknown and unwelcomed, in the very center of the Catholic world. After a few years working as an understudy in the studios of other painters, his genre paintings of young boys came to the attention of a group of ecclesiastics and businessman who were members of the Roman elite, and passionate collectors of art and artifacts of every kind. This became the community he moved amongst (at least by day) until his hasty and involuntary departure from Rome a decade later, and it was this small group of patrons who bought or paid for nearly all of the pictures for which Caravaggio is best known.
The high point of Caravaggio's Roman period came in 1600, when the unveiling of his three life-sized paintings narrating the story of St. Matthew in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, brought him the acclaim of a continent-wide public, and assured his continuing fame. These paintings are still installed in place, and remain a must-see for any artistic pilgrimage to Rome.
The works done during the next period of Caravaggio's life, after his exile from Rome in 1606, are much darker in mood and hastier in execution. Given the tumultous circumstances of his existence, that he continued to do remarkable works (the entire inventory includes less than 40) is in itself an achievement.
In his private life, Caravaggio was notorious for his violence and brawling even in a time and place where such behavior was commonplace. A full transcript of his police records and trial proceedings would fill several pages, and it is difficult to take a sympathetic view of the artist based on the picture which emerges from this material.
Several of these violent incidents nearly ended in the death of the painter or his adversary, and certainly Caravaggio owed his continuing freedom at least in part to the protection of his powerful patrons. But even his well-placed friends could not save Caravaggio from the police after a nightime battle between rival gangs led to the death of one of the participants, and in 1606 the artist was forced to quit Rome for good. After further misadventures in the south of Italy (and more brilliant painting) he died in 1610, under disputed circumstances, before a pardon from the pope could reach him.
His familiarity with the darker side of Roman life frequently informs Caravaggio's work, and scenes of violence and struggle are common. However, it is still a challenge to reconcile what we know of Caravaggio's difficult and tempestuous nature with the extreme elegance and control of his work. Still more difficult to understand is his ability to charm and ingratiate himself with his aristocratic and clerical supporters, several of whom - most importantly Cardinal Del Monte - lodged him for extended periods in their homes.
What continues to hold our attention is the work itself, which in its time represented the culmination of technical innovations begun 200 years earlier in the Renaissance. The art of representation has never surpassed the best of Caravaggio's work, and it towered over the work of his contemporaries in a way that sent shock waves throughout Europe, waves that are felt to this day.
- "The painters then in Rome were greatly taken by this novelty, and the young ones particularly gathered around him, praised him as the unique imitator of nature, and looked on his work as miracles. They outdid each other in imitating his works, undressing their models and raising their lights." —Giovanni Pietro Bellori, 1672.
It would be hard to overestimate the impact that Caravaggio's innovations had upon painters of his generation and the generations that followed. His gritty realism, his choice of models, his theatrical lighting, his "night paintings" the rich passages of still life; in short, the revolution he brought to fruition at a time when art was ripe for renewal.
A short list of artists who owe much to his stylistic breakthroughs would have to include his companion Orazio Gentileschi and his daughter Artemisia, the Frenchman Georges de La Tour, and the Spaniard Ribera.
A group of Catholic artists from Utrecht, the "Utrecht Caravaggisti" travelled to Rome as students in the first years of the 17th century and were profoundly influenced by the work of Caravaggio, as Bellori describes. On their return to the north this trend had a short-lived but intense development in the 1620s among painters like Hendrick ter Brugghen , Gerrit van Honthorst Andries Both (illustration, left) and Dirck van Baburen. In the following generation less intense effects of Caravaggio can be traced even in Rubens (whose time in Rome overlapped that of Caravaggio, and who purchased one of his paintings for the Gonzaga), Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Velazquez, who likely saw his work during his various sojourns in Italy.
It is easy to judge for oneself the pervasiveness of Caravaggio's influence. Many of our large museums of art, for example those in Detroit, and New York, contain rooms where dozens of paintings by as many artists display the characteristic look of his work - nightime setting, dramatic lighting, ordinary people used as models, honest description from nature.
In modern times, contemporary painters like the Norwegian Odd Nerdrum and the Romanian Tibor Csernus make no secret of their attempts to emulate and update his work. Perhaps no single artist in the entire Western canon, outside of Giotto and Massacio, had so much influence beyond his time.
- (1594) The Cardsharps 
- (1601) Supper at Emmaus 
- (1602) The Taking of Christ 
- (1603) Amor Victorious 
- (1607) Flagellation of Christ 
- (1607) Seven Acts of Mercy 
- (1609) Adoration of the Shepherds 
From the French - to be integrated
- Nature morte avec fleurs et fruits (1590) - Huile sur toile, 105 x 184 cm - Galleria Borghese, Rome
- Garçon pelant un fruit (vers 1593) - Huile sur toile, 75.5 x 64.4 cm - Longhi Collection, Rome
- Garçon avec un panier de fruits (1593) - Huile sur toile, 70 x 67 cm - Galleria Borghese, Rome
- Le jeune Bacchus malade (vers 1593) - Huile sur toile, 67 x 53 cm - Galleria Borghese, Rome
- Garçon mordu par un Lézard (1594) - Huile sur toile, 66 x 49.5 cm - National Gallery, London
- L'extase de Saint François (1595) - Huile sur toile, 92.5 x 128.4 cm - Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford
- Les Musiciens (1595 - 1596) - Huile sur toile, 92 x 118.5 cm - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
- Bacchus (vers 1596) - Huile sur toile, 95 x 85 cm - Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
- Les joueurs de cartes (1596) - Huile sur toile, 90 x 112 cm - Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth
- Le joueur de luth (vers 1596) - Huile sur toile, 94 x 119 cm - Hermitage, Saint-Pétersbourg
- La diseuse de bonne aventure (1596) - Huile sur toile, 115 x 150 cm - Musei Capitolini, Rome
- Le repos pendant la fuite en Égypte (1596 - 1597) - Huile sur toile, 133.5 x 166.5 cm - Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome
- Sainte Madeleine (1596 - 1597) - Huile sur toile, 122.5 x 98.5 cm - Galleria Doria-Pamphilj, Rome
- La diseuse de bonne aventure (1596 - 1597) - Huile sur toile, 99 x 131 cm - Musée du Louvre, Paris
- Panier de fruits (vers 1597) - Huile sur toile, 46 x 64 cm - Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan
- Portrait d'une Courtisane (vers 1598) - Huile sur toile, 66 x 53 cm - Collection privée
- Judith décapitant Holopherne (vers 1598) - Huile sur toile, 145 x 195 cm - Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome
- L'arrestation du Christ (vers 1598) - Huile sur toile, 133.5 x 169.5 cm - National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
- Marthe et Marie Madeleine (vers 1598) - Huile sur toile, 97.8 x 132.7 cm - Institute of Arts, Detroit
- Sainte Catherine d'Alexandrie (vers 1598) - Huile sur toile, 173 x 133 cm - Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid
- Tête de Méduse (1598 - 1599) - Huile sur toile monté sur bois, 60 x 55 cm - Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
- Narcisse (1598 - 1599) - Huile sur toile, 110 x 92 cm - Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome
- Jupiter, Neptune et Pluton (1597 - 1600) - Fresque au plafond, huile, 300 x 180 cm - Casino Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome
- Portrait de Maffeo Barberini (1599) - Huile sur toile, 124 x 99 cm - Collection privée
- La Vocation de Saint Matthieu (1599 - 1600) - Huile sur toile, 323 x 343 cm - Chapelle Contarelli, San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome
- Le martyre de Saint Mathieu (1599 - 1600) - Huile sur toile, 323 x 343 cm - Chapelle Contarelli, San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome
- Le joueur de luth (vers 1600) - Huile sur toile, 100 x 126.5 cm - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
- La conversion de Saint Paul (1600) - Huile sur bois de cyprès, 237 x 189 cm - Odescalchi Balbi Collection, Rome
- La Conversion de Saint Paul sur le chemin de Damas (1600) - Huile sur toile, 230 x 175 cm - Chapelle Cerasi, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome
- Le jeune Saint Jean-Baptiste au Bélier (1600) - Huile sur toile, 129 x 94 cm - Musei Capitolini, Rome
- David (1600) - Huile sur toile, 110 x 91 cm - Museo del Prado, Madrid
- La crucifiction de Saint Pierre (1600) - Huile sur toile, 230 x 175 cm - Cerasi Chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome
- Le Sacrifice d'Isaac (1601 - 1602) - Huile sur toile, 104 x 135 cm - Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
- Le souper à Emmaüs (1601 - 1602) - Huile sur toile, 139 x 195 cm - National Gallery, London
- L'incrédulité de Saint Thomas (1601 - 1602) - Huile sur toile, 107 x 146 cm - Sanssouci, Potsdam
- Saint Matthieu et l'ange (1602) - Huile sur toile, 232 x 183 cm - Détruite
- L'inspiration de Saint Matthieu (1602) - Huile sur toile, 292 x 186 cm - Chapelle Contarelli, San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome
- Le couronnement d'épines (1602 - 1603) - Huile sur toile, 125 x 178 cm - Cassa di Risparmi, Prato
- L'amour Victorieux (1602 - 1603) - Huile sur toile, 156 x 113 cm - Staatliche Museen, Berlin
- La mise au tombeau (1602 - 1603) - Huile sur toile, 300 x 203 cm - Pinacoteca, Vatican
- Le Christ au Jardin (1603) - Huile sur toile, 154 x 222 cm - Collection privée
- Saint Jean-Baptiste (1603 - 1604) - Huile sur toile, 94 x 131 cm - Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome
- Saint Jean-Baptiste (1604) - Huile sur toile, 172.5 x 104.5 cm - Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City
- La Madonne des pèlerins (1603 - 1605) - Huile sur toile, 260 x 150 cm - S. Agostino, Rome
- Le Sacrifice d'Isaac (1605) - Huile sur toile, 116 x 173 cm - Piasecka-Johnson Collection, Princeton
- Saint Jérome (vers 1606) - Huile sur toile, 112 x 157 cm - Galleria Borghese, Rome
- Ecce Homo (vers 1606) - Huile sur toile, 128 x 103 cm - Palazzo Rosso, Gênes
- Saint François (1606) - Huile sur toile, 125 x 93 cm - Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome
- Saint François (1606) - Huile sur toile, 190 x 130 cm - Pinacoteca, Cremona
- La mort de la Vierge (1606) - Huile sur toile, 369 x 245 cm - Musée du Louvre, Paris
- La Madonne au Serpent (1606) - Huile sur toile, 292 x 211 cm - Galleria Borghese, Rome
- Le Souper à Emaüs (1606) - Huile sur toile, 141 x 175 cm - Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan
- Le Christ à la colonne (vers 1607) - Huile sur toile, 134.5 x 175.5 cm - Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen
- La flagellation (vers 1607) - Huile sur toile, 390 x 260 cm - Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples
- Saint Jerome (1605 - 1606) - Huile sur toile, 118 x 81 cm - Monastère de Montserrat
- David (1606 - 1607) - Huile sur bois, 90.5 x 116 cm - Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienne
- Salomé avec la tête de Saint Jean Baptiste (vers 1607) - Huile sur toile, 90.5 x 167 cm - National Gallery, London
- La crucification de Saint André (1607) - Huile sur toile, 202.5 x 152.7 cm - Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland
- Les sept actes de miséricorde (1607) - Huile sur toile, 390 x 260 cm - Église Pio Monte della Misericordia, Naples
- La Madonne du rosaire (1607) - Huile sur toile, 364.5 x 249.5 cm - Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienne
- Saint Jérome (1607) - Huile sur toile, 117 x 157 cm - Saint John Cathedral, VallettaMalta
- Saint Jean-Baptiste à la fontaine (1607 - 1608) - Huile sur toile, 100 x 73 cm - Collezione Bonello, Malta
- Portrait d'Alof de Wignacourt (1607 - 1608) - Huile sur toile, 195 x 134 cm - Musée du Louvre, Paris
- Portrait d'Alof de Wignacourt (1608) - Huile sur toile, 118.5 x 95.5 cm - Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence
- La décapitation de Saint Jean Baptiste (1608) - Huile sur toile, 361 x 520 cm - Saint John Cathedral, Valetta Malta
- L'enterrement de Sainte Lucy (1608) - Huile sur toile, 408 x 300 cm - Santa Lucia, Syracuse
- L'Amour endormi (1608) - Huile sur toile, 71 x 105 cm - Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence
- L'arracheur de dents (1607 - 1609) - Huile sur toile, 139.5 x 194.5 cm - Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
- La résurrection de Lazarre (1608-1609) - Huile sur toile, 380 x 275 cm - Museo Nazionale, Messina
- L'Annonciation (1608 - 1609) - Huile sur toile, 285 x 205 cm - Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nancy
- La Nativité avec Saint François et Saint Laurent (1609) - Huile sur toile, 268 x 197 cm - Perdue
- L'adoration des mages (1609) - Huile sur toile, 314 x 211 cm - Museo Nazionale, Messina
- David (1609) - Huile sur toile, 125 x 101 cm - Galleria Borghese, Rome
- Salomé avec la tête de Saint Jean Baptiste (1609) - Huile sur toile, 116 x 140 cm - Palazzo Real, Madrid
- Le reniement de Saint Pierre (1610) - Huile sur toile, 94 x 125 cm - Shickman Gallery, New York
- Saint Jean-Baptiste (1610) - Huile sur toile, 159 x 124 cm - Galleria Borghese, Rome
- Le Martyre de Saint Ursule (1610) - Huile sur toile, 154 x 178 cm - Banca Commerciale Italiana, Naples
- Saint Jean Baptiste (?) - Huile sur toile, 102.5 x 83 cm - Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel
- Le Couronnement d'épines (?) - Huile sur toile, 165.5 x 127 cm - Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
- List of painters
- List of Italian painters
- List of famous Italians
- Han van Meegeren - his forged Vermeer entitled Supper at Emmaus, was modelled on Caravaggio's.
- Caravaggio (movie)
- Caravaggio at Art Renewal Center
- Caravaggio at CGFA
- Caravaggio at Olga's Gallery
- Caravaggio, The Prince of the Night (in French)
- Caravaggio in "Agora"
- Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio WebMuseun, Paris webpage
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