MICHELANGELO MERISI DA (CARAVAGGIO 1571-1610) A MISUNDERSTOOD FORGOTTEN CONTROVERSIAL AND REVOLUTIONARY ARTIST WHO CHALLENGED THE ART OF MANNERISM , A GENIUS WHO FAR OUTSTRIPPED THE BRILLIANCE OF MICHELANGELO. AN APPRECIATION OF THE FOREMOST REALIST OF THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE:PART3.

Caravaggio-Portraet-von-Ottavio-Leoni

In my final part of  my appreciation I will be dealing  with some of the great art that Caravaggio painted leading to the death of a revolutionary artist at a young age. Lambert continues to show how Caravaggio was now wanted by the papal police after an altercation would lead to a serious situation for Caravaggio.

” He was now on the wanted list and his friends were unable to have the charges withdrawn. On the Campo di Marzo on 29th May 1606 during a game of Royal Tennis he declared his opponent of cheating , daggers were drawn. Caravaggio too was wounded but managed to escape.   The Avvisi (Magistrate) for Rome  of 31st may 1606 announced that Michelangelo de Merisi known a painter from  Caravaggio   was condemned to death and banished” [1]

” He was forced to flee Rome which he did by night and in disguise. he was 35 and a period of his life had come to an end”. [2].

The fame of Caravaggio had spread throughout the Renaissance world , he was one of the most talented and at the same time controversial painters as Lambert retells.

” When he fled the papal jurisdiction in May 1606 under an effective death sentence Caravaggio was one of the most famous painters in Rome. Two or three days travel lay a  great city (Naples)”. [3].

Caravaggio,s painting in Naples showed that this was a more realistic and closer representation of reality. ” It marked the advent of a new and still more realistic style of painting and as usual it caused a scandal. The Dominicans acknowledged its merit but rejected nonetheless . it was brought by the Bruges painter Finsonius who sent it to Antwerp where Rubens Bruegel, and Van Balen bought it for the Dominican Church in Antwerp”.[4].michelangelo_caravaggio_40_penitent_magdalene

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” During his first stay in Naples Caravaggio painted two flagellations. Roberto Longhi considers the work one of the most heart rendering of Caravaggio’s  corpus infinitive devotion struggles with infinite brutality”. [5].

Longhi of course was the Art Historian who recovered the brilliance and realism of Caravaggio to the world.

Lambert continues with his later commentary of Caravaggio who would only live another 4 years. It was a sad indictment on a magnificent and revolutionary artist.

” The execution of  St John the Baptist is the only canvass signed by Caravaggio . his name seems to be written in the blood that spurts from the neck indicating it has been said his identification with the victim”. [6].

Caravaggio as well as painting religious subjects also painted portraits and one of these was Alaf de Wigancourt. ” A portrait Caravaggio happily obliged but beside the redoubtable warrior , he placed an excessively handsome page carrying his masters helmet. Delacroix copied him into his notebook. Manet recalled him in his child with sword”. [7].

The impressionists of the 17th and 18th Century showed how great an artist Caravaggio was by representing aspects of his work in their paintings. Clement Greenberg the American Art Historian claimed that modernism started with Edouard Manet.

” Of course scandal  erupted at the same time , it seems he executed a sleeping cupid reminiscent of the naked child in the Madonna , a shadow masks the sex of the child on the reverse of the painting is the inscription work by M. M. Caravaggio Malta 1608″. [8].

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untitled portrait of de wigancourt

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Lambert tells us  after this affair that Caravaggio was thrown out of the order for his realistic portrayal of Christ and John the Baptist , they viewed it as sacrilege the way Caravaggio portrayed these religious figures. ” At all events, he was expelled from the order. the document designated him corrupt and stinking and liable to the full force of the law”.[9].

” Caravaggio was forced to flee and took ship for Sicily . he landed at Syracuse where he painted ‘ The Burial of St Lucy”. [10].

Caravaggio as Lambert comments creates a picture with brilliant spatial overtones , no other artist could achieve so masterly a composition but in 17th century Sicily it was not welcomed. ” With this composition Caravaggio introduced a new relationship between figures and space. its novelty was not welcome in Syracuse”. [11].

This was the tragic period of Caravaggio’s life where he had not many years to live , they are full of doom and darkness as if Caravaggio knew that his life was drawing to an end. What a tragic fate awaited him , if only he had lived in the 20th Century his art may have been recognised for what it was brilliant Realism.

” The various works that he rapidly executed in Naples give clear and tragic proof of this. For he never returned to Rome. He had but a year to live”. [12].

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” In Naples , (Caravaggio) he was attacked wounded and left for dead in the street”. [13].

Caravaggio was to survive this attack and proceeded to paint some of his last pictures , it was 1610 and he was die in appalling conditions in a few months.

” Of these last works one remains to be discussed :The  martyrdom of Saint Ursula . It was the last commission accepted by Caravaggio who was hoping to set aside some money for his return to Rome. in no other picture by Caravaggio is death so strongly present”. [14].

The death of Caravaggio in July 1610 has him reputed to be looking towards Rome , The city he loved and adored and which he hoped to return to. It was not to be . What a tragic waste of a revolutionary hero  who lit the world alight with his art. He had not reached the age of 40 when he died. Here is Lambert’s final comment on the life of Michelangelo Da Merisi known as Caravaggio.

” One account has him haggard , hungry , ill and worn out looking for the felucca he had hired or for another boat. his wounds it is said had become infected and brought fever in their wake. He disembarked at Port e rede . He died looking towards Rome in July 1610″.

So ended the life of one of the most Revolutionary artists of his day , many commentators and critics tried to bury the brilliance of Caravaggio but we owe Roberto Longhi a great debt for bringing the  foremost realist of our time within reach of every art lover.

FOOTNOTES

  1. CARAVAGGIO  GILLES LAMBERT TASCHEN BOOKS PG 78
  2. DITTO. PG.78
  3. DITTO PG. 81
  4. DITTO PG. 81
  5. DITTO PG.82
  6. DITTO PG.82
  7. DITTO.PG.85
  8. DITTO .PG.85
  9. DITTO.PG. 85
  10. DITTO. PG.85
  11. DITTO. PG.85
  12. DITTO.PG. 85
  13. DITTO PG. 86
  14. DITTO PG. 89
  15. DITTO .PG.94

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