Saturday, September 20, 2008

About Caravaggio

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) lived a short, violent, but exceedingly fruitful life as an innovative Italian Baroque painter whose distinctive style influenced such noted painters as Rubens, Velazquez, Rembrandt, Honthorst, and Georges de la Tour. His oil paintings are known for their use of everyday characters (as if taken from the streets of Rome) placed in historical, allegorical or religious settings.


He hired locals as his models, and some of them can be seen repeatedly in his works. Rather than depicting the subjects of his paintings in heroic or historical garb, he often painted them in the dress of his time. As a consequence, his paintings have a sense of immediacy about them. All his works are bathed in deep, obscuring shadows and bright, defining patches of light.

Supper at Emmaus

Arranging his subjects in a dramatic fashion, such as in the moment of Peter’s martyrdom when he is about to be crucified upside down, Caravaggio employed the techniques of foreshortening, theatrical use of gesture, and a concentrated or a narrowed subject field (where your eye is drawn directly to the action/subject) in order to add drama and interest to his works.

The Martyrdom of St. Peter

Caravaggio painted primarily in Milan, Rome and Naples and enjoyed a degree of patronage; however, his personal life worked against his career as he outspent his income, brawled, gambled and even committed murder. He is said to have died on a malaria-ridden Italian coastline after escaping from prison.

The subject of Jonathan Harr's book, The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece, can be seen below.

The Taking of Christ

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