Born in 1571, he was called Caravaggio from the name of the town in the province of Bergamo where he had lived as a child (he signs himself Michelangelo Merisi).
The figure of him was the object of criticism already from his contemporaries who condemned the obscene nudity, the offense to decency and decorum.
Furthermore, his character, rebellious and violent, handed down the idea of an extravagant man on the verge of madness.
His painting reproduces naked reality: his saints were models taken from the street, his sacred scenes represent everyday gestures and contexts. His works are rejected by religious orders.
The cursed painter
Caravaggio, born in northern Italy, soon moved to Rome to make a career. In 1601 he was still in Rome without an address. Perhaps the family had some land and was orphaned they were sold for the stay in Rome.
He used to work a couple of weeks and for a month go for a walk with a sword and a servant at his side, dueling, fighting and playing ball.
In 1603 he received a lawsuit for assault; shortly thereafter he is sued in court for spreading foul poems; an inn boy accused him of having thrown a plate of artichokes in his face.
In 1605 he was arrested for carrying illegal weapons; the same year he attacks a notary; he is sued by a woman for stoning a window.
In 1606 he kills Panuccio Tommasoni after a fight at the tennis court. He will be forced to flee Rome by taking refuge in different cities to avoid the death sentence. He flees to Naples, Malta (where he will be imprisoned). Escaped from prison, he wanders to Syracuse, Messina, Palermo, Naples again where he is attacked by the guards, almost reduced to death and arrested. He will die on the beach of Porto Ercole shortly before receiving the glory of the pope in 1610.
From the very first artistic experiences Caravaggio demonstrates an extraordinary ability to grasp reality through light.
In the workshop of Cavalier D’Arpino in Rome he specializes in still life which he makes extremely realistic, painting the effects of light on the skin of the fruit (velvety peaches, moist berries, dried leaves.). He prefers to paint baskets of ripe fruit almost bruised, which symbolized the transience of human life and were an omen of death.
These works often also feature the painter’s self-portrait and become symbolically represented mythological subjects (Bacchus).
In Rome he paints for many religious orders. The figures of the saints are always very humanized (he takes the models from the street), he places the scenes in modest places (taverns).
Caravaggio overturns the concept of holiness compared to the past. The halos are barely visible: holiness is among humble people.
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