In the second part of my appreciation of Caravaggio I will continue describing the collapse of Mannerism while referring To Gilles Lambert’s commentary on Caravaggio which is by far the most sympathetic appraisal of Caravaggio.
” The austerity of the Counter -Reformation was abating .The turn of the century was at hand and mannerism was already a thing of the past. Michelangelo Merisi now called himself Caravaggio” ..
Lambert now concentrates on some of his religious works . ” He painted a moving repentant Magdalene whose model was a woman from the streets perhaps his mistress”.
Caravaggio was not concerned with how people viewed his personal life he proceeded as he had always and was not bound by any social rules in Society.
” The fortune tellers and the cardsharps. These are the first fruits with 3 protagonists in the venetian format with 3/4 profiles and Caravaggio often returned to it”. .
Continuing the religious theme Lambert comments .” Caravaggio mow returned to religious subjects. till now the only such paintings we know had been The Saint Francis and the penitent Magdalene faithful to his notion of the Painters role he sought dramatic subjects and situations which had been represented”. .
Working for Cardinal Pucci the retired prelate and other religious organisations who under the Papacy were powerful and ruled society in 16th Century Italy and Lombardy. Caravaggio if he wanted commissions had to submit work of a religious nature.
” The demand for religious subjects combined no doubt with pressure from the Cardinals incited Caravaggio to paint other sculptural subjects”..
Artemisia Gentileschi inspired Caravaggio to paint the picture Judith cutting off the head of the Assyrian Captain Holofernes . ” he chose a terrible scene from the Apochrypha , that of Judith cutting the head of the Assyrian Captain Holofernes”. .
the daughter of his close friend Orazio Gentileschi. having been raped as a young girl by a friend f Caravaggio and her father she painted several versions of Judith decapitating Holofernes to exorcise her hatred of men”..
Other paintings of Caravaggio like the rest on the flight from Egypt defies conventional practices. ” The rest on the flight into Egypt similarily defies convention and Tradition . the Virgin has russet hair contrasting with the blonde curls of the Christ child. an angel plays the violin. the Fresco was a success and confirmed Caravaggio’s authority”. .
Lambert reminds us that two great paintings of Caravaggio on St Matthew have yet to be found.
” Four Centuries have passed and the two great paintings by Caravaggio are still to be found in san Luigi. they are The Martyrdom of saint Matthew and the Vocation of saint Matthew”. .
” The realism and emotional intensity of the Martyrdom of st Matthew was found overwhelming by applying his Luministic invention to a complex ensemble of figures Caravaggio abandoned the linear methods used by Taddeo Zuccari and Giuseppino to guide the spectators eye”. .
Continuing the revolutionary and technical brilliance of Caravaggio Lambert shows how he uses light and colour to good effect , in fact rejecting the Linear perspective which most classical painters had been taught to use. ” The light enters from the top right of the canvass, the only window is closed and seems always to have been so. this revolutionary work marks the beginning of a new age in painting wrote Valerio Mariani in 1958″. .
At this time Caravaggio had joined his friends again and was drinking , carousing fighting and amusing himself with women in the local Brothels. ” Caravaggio had returned to his friends in the underworld , was again quarrelling and drinking and occasionally disappeared without trace”. .
Roberto Longhi comments about the development of Caravaggio’s art and his brilliance at depicting darkness as well as light. ” In Roberto Longhi’s view the two St Maria pictures testify the full extent of Caravaggio’s genius . how far he has come. Caravaggio has become master of darkness and what he lets us perceived throughout cannot diminish his tragic virile pessimism”. .
Caravaggio’s first Biographer Bagilone ,another artist who was not fit to comment on Caravaggio , he was constantly fighting with Caravaggio so his biography was littered with hateful and mostly untrue comments, most of Caravaggio’s contemporaries were unable or not competent to judge the brilliance of Caravaggio.
Caravaggio now returns to Rome where he paints Madonna De Loreto.” Caravaggio returned to Rome and finished the astonishing Madonna de Loreto . Caravaggio chose to show her in humble peasant dwelling where she is receiving the fervent homage of two aged pilgrims with dirty feet”. .
” And to complicate matters there was a new affair during a hard drinking dinner at the Alberigo del Moro (in Rome) . Caravaggio brushes with justice.To earn his pardon Caravaggio agreed to paint a St Francis Mediating for the Capuchin church and a St Jerome writing , since Jerome employed a particular vogue during the Counter-Reformation”. .
” With the rejection of Madonna with Serpent the doors of St Peters were closed to Caravaggio. the Secretary of one of the Cardinals wrote we find nothing in this picture but vulgarity , sacrilege , impiety and disgust”. .
The Cardinals later commented that Caravaggio knew his craft but his pictures were too dark. These were members of the most reactionary clique of Prelates who engaged in Torture and the Inquisition , not a feature of Christ’s ministry. The Catholic Church committed the most violent practices prosecuting and jailing any one who represented religious figures with their human frailties. Caravaggio in many ways was born in the wrong country and the Wrong Century.
” Scipione Borghese bought the Madonna with serpent. it was the last work of Caravaggio’s Roman period. he had reverted to nocturnal escapades and soon found himself within the walls of Tor-di-Nona prison”..
This concludes my second part on Caravaggio. in Part 3 I will explain and show how Michelangelo Merisi Da Caravaggio finally met his death , but not before this outstanding and remarkable artist had painted some more master pieces.
- CARAVAGGIO GILLES LAMBERT TASCHEN BOOKS PG 48
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