Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) Automatic translate
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was born on September 28, 1571 in a small village near Bergamo, by the name of which he got his name remaining in the history of world art - Caravaggio. The date of birth of the great artist became known only thanks to the surviving contract for his training, concluded by the parents of the future artist with the rather famous painter Simone Peterzano at that time. The document, dated 1584, states that at the time of his conclusion, Michelangelo Merisi was 13 years old. Peterzano was a student of the great Titian and lived in Milan, where Caravaggio’s creative career began.
The beginning of the creative path
Michelangelo’s mother, Lucia Aratori, was the second wife of the architect and decorator Fermo Merisi, who served with Francesco I Sforza, who bore the title of Marquis da Caravaggio. In total, the family had five children. The first years of Michelangelo’s life passed in Milan, from where the family fled back to Bergamo, fleeing the plague. True, the epidemic did not spare the father and uncle of the future artist, whose whole family remained in the care of his mother, who was in great need.
Entering the workshop of Simone Peterzano in 1584, Michelangelo signs a contract with the Duke of Colonna, heir to the Marquis da Caravaggio who died in 1583. The column, which decided to buy all the works of the young painter, as soon as he entered the workshop of Peterzano, became the faithful patron of Caravaggio for his whole life.
The head of the Catholic Church, which was one of the largest customers of paintings, was Pope Sixtus V, who favored new trends in art, which had just begun to emerge in Lombardy. At this time, the Duchy of Milan, under Spanish rule, became the center of rigorous artistic and religious doctrine. In particular, the art of Europe and Italy was under the rule of mannerism, but in parallel with it there was Bologna-Roman academism, limited to imitation of the great Venetian and Roman painters. In Lombardy, on the other hand, artists began to move away from mannerism and focus on a realistic reflection of life. This trend had a great influence on the formation of the creative style of Michelangelo Merisi.
Unfortunately, we know little about the activities of the Milan workshop Simone Peterzano during the period when Caravaggio came there. Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo wrote in 1584 that Peterzano rejoiced in great demand, which consistently enjoyed his works, made "elegantly and easily." If you look at his frescoes in the church of Garegnano near Milan, or on his canvases such as “Venus” or “Cupid and Two Satyrs” (Corsini Collection, New York), you can see a clear influence of mannerism, mixed with the new Lombard realism.
In the early works of Caravaggio, one can clearly see the influence of the Peterzano style, although the continuity with respect to the paintings of the great masters of the Renaissance, such as Titian, Giorgione, Giovanni Bellini or Leonardo da Vinci, is also evident. The work of the latter, namely “Madonna in the Rocks”, Caravaggio, of course, seen in the church of San Francesco Grande, Milan. Also, back in Bergamo, the artist admired the painting of Lorenzo Lotto, which stood out for its special emotional tension.
Art historian Mina Gregory convincingly proves that the young artist carefully studied the works of Andrea Mantegna, which clearly demonstrates the only fresco painted by Caravaggio, undoubtedly painted under the influence of the painting style of this magnificent master of perspective. Caravaggio was also in Mantua, where he examined the monumental works of Giulio Romane.
Meanwhile, in Milan, a real school was formed, which fell under the influence of the picturesque manner of the Campi brothers. In it, young artists developed the themes of their works, focusing primarily on real life, from which they drew inspiration. The painting of this creative group incorporated all the innovations in the fine arts of that time.
To discover the effect of chiaroscuro, Caravaggio may have been helped by the work of the High Renaissance master Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo, whom the young painter admired. Then he created a portrait of the famous artist Sofonisba Anguissola, who was familiar with the great Michelangelo in her youth. Sofonisba created genre scenes taken from everyday life. We can see in one of her drawings, created by coal and chalk, an image of her little son, whose cancer was bitten by a finger. It was this drawing that prompted the young Caravaggio plot of his first painting, which he painted immediately after arriving in Rome.
Unfortunately, we can only hypothetically talk about the creative formation of Caravaggio. According to art historian Berenson, Giorgione was fundamental to the development of Caravaggio’s style. The influence of the Lombard school is also read clearly. Roberto Longy writes: “For a long time in Milan, a group of artists who came from Lombardy was revered who created simple democratic art… In their paintings there was a lot of human feeling, inner light and no religious ecstasy at all; coloristic decision, black-and-white effects were coordinated among themselves and verified with nature. It was a realistic art that sought to portray simply and truly nature and man. ”
Peterzano, who was a very progressive teacher for his time, also played a significant role in the formation of the artistic style of Caravaggio. In training, he focused on the painting technique, without which it is impossible to achieve the heights of excellence.
Hardly reaching the age of 18, Caravaggio, full of longing to work independently, moved to Rome. The route of his journey is unknown, we can only assume that along the way he saw many of the works of great masters. In Rome, the prelate Pandolfo Pucci provides shelter for a young man. The first works of Caravaggio have a simple plot: “A Boy Bitten by a Lizard” (1594, National Gallery, London), “A Young Man with a Basket of Fruits” (1593, Borghese Gallery, Rome), “A Boy Cleaning a Pear” (1593).
The first self-portrait of Caravaggio is considered the painting "Musicians" (1595, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), in which the artist portrayed himself along with two other young musicians and Cupid in the background. Many art historians consider the image of Amur a kind of homoerotic symbol, indicating Caravaggio’s penchant for homosexuality. Soon, the painter becomes seriously ill, but miraculously recovers and, almost immediately, paints the painting “Little Sick Bacchus” (1953, Borghese Gallery, Rome), which is his second self-portrait.
Caravaggio is sponsored by the powerful Cardinal del Monte, for whom the artist creates a number of religious paintings. In the painting "Penitent Magdalene" (1595-1597, Doria Pamphili Gallery, Rome) we see the first female image created by the artist. In the same period, the painter creates his second “Bacchus” (1596, Uffizi Gallery, Florence), this time full of health. Soon, Caravaggio provokes his first, but far from the last, clash with justice.
But why did the young artist choose Rome? Caravaggio biographers agree that the choice of the cultural capital of Italy, and therefore the whole world, was due to the extraordinary ambitions of Caravaggio, who dreamed of becoming the greatest artist of all time. Is it because he violated the law many times because he believed that he - gifted with God more than those around him - was allowed everything?
Rome at that time really flourished. The construction of St. Peter’s Basilica, which in those years was the largest architectural structure in the whole world, has just completed. Grand basilicas were erected, such as San Giovanni Laterano, Santa Maria Maggiore, the harbor of Ripetta on the Tiber opened, which truly became the gateway to the world. Pope Sixtus V invited all the talented painters of the peninsula to come to Rome, and many, including Lombards, followed this appeal. All this was intended to convey to the whole world the triumph of Christianity.
Like much about the life of Caravaggio, we do not know the exact date of his arrival in Rome. Maybe it was 1591 or 1592. There is a lot of evidence that the artist arrived in the Eternal City under Pope Clement VIII.
The young artist who arrived in Rome most likely had with him several canvases painted in Milan. But these works, with their realistic interpretation of the characters and plots, could hardly arouse the interest of the local public, whose tastes then determined mannerism and classicism. Great love in Rome enjoyed copies of the works of Michelangelo and Raphael. It is significant that painters who were very popular at that time, such as Agnesti, Siolante, Taddeo Zuccaro, Salviate, Rafaelino da Reggio, Cesars Nebbia or Giuseppe Cerzi, left only a small trace in the world history of art.
The art historian Callab writes: “Young artists who arrived in Rome at the end of the sixteenth century, not only had to limit themselves to a meek imitation of paintings by old masters, but also inherit their idealism, artistic timidity, and fear of abandoning an empty surface manner of depiction. In painting, these artists were content only with external resemblance. " In order to somehow survive, they were forced to submit to the tastes of the public and engage only in decorating life. An example is the work of Annibale Carracci, who came to Rome from Bologna. He was commissioned to decorate the gallery in the Palazzo Farnese. Already in the process of working on the implementation of his creative plan, he encountered great difficulties and distrust of customers and the public.
The same thing happened with Caravaggio. He huddled in the poor quarters of the city, in the same place as many other immigrants from Lombardy, the same unemployed artists, sculptors and stone masons who tried to survive in anticipation of orders. Soon, the painter managed to enter the service of Lorenzo Siciliano, in the studio of which he met his fellow countrymen, the Longo brothers.
During this period, Caravaggio and his comrades spent their days at work, exploring the countryside and having fun. Researchers in vain searched for the works of the artist of this period. Perhaps he wrote something for himself, but, obviously, these paintings did not find buyers.
And yet, Caravaggio smiled on luck in the person of a wealthy philanthropist, a man of fine artistic taste, but with a dubious reputation, prelate of the papal court, Monsignor Pandolfo Pucci. He was the brother of a cardinal, who, by the way, also took care of the “timid” Benvenuto Cellini.
The prelate was fascinated by the dexterity, talent of the young artist and his unyielding, explosive character. Pucci invited Caravaggio to his house, ensuring its existence. The artist, for his part, in gratitude for the kindness of the prelate, had to do the work for him of copying the best pious church paintings. Monsignor Pucci sent all his works to the Capuchin Monastery in Recanati, in which he was once born and spent the early years of his life. Not a single work of this series has reached us.
Style and Themes
With a lot of free time and complete creative freedom, Caravaggio could choose any plot for his works and ponder over them for a long time. Now we know for sure that the artist’s painting “A Boy Bitten by a Lizard” (circa 1954, the National Gallery, London and, second option, the Longy Foundation in Florence) was created during his stay with Monsignor Pucci. The picture was a kind of reminiscence on the well-known charcoal drawing of Sofonisba Anguissola. The young man on the canvas is depicted at the moment when the lizard bites him, and he fearfully pulls his hand away. For the first time in painting, a moment of movement was snatched out and recorded.
According to Berenson, in this work of Caravaggio there is a "universal need for innovation," a desire to destroy conventions. Perhaps an allegory is also hiding here: the boy’s bare shoulders and a flower behind his ear, indicate the young man belongs to the Roman lower classes - the world of prostitutes and thieves, which Caravaggio associated with physical pain and the suffering that necessarily accompany love. Throughout the artist’s career, the images of physical suffering were inextricably linked with spiritual and mental suffering.
Caravaggio also wrote his famous “Lute Player” during his stay with Pucci. Now the picture is in the Hermitage, in St. Petersburg. The image of a musician is very typical of the models chosen by the artist. There is another version of the canvas, it is stored in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York. On it we see the same playing boy, but we do not see any flowers or fruits next to him.
It is amazing the thoroughness with which the artist writes out musical instruments. The dreamy face of the lute player, the languor in his gaze, all suggests that the young man is carried away in the imagination into his deep inner world. You can read an intriguing inscription on the score in the Hermitage’s picture: “Voi sapete chio vato” (“You Know I Love You”). I wonder who sent this recognition? In the picture “Musicians”, the foreground also depicts an unfolded score to the audience, which is held by a half-naked singer. But here the inscription made by his hand, so far no one has been able to read.
The fact that all the works of this period, Caravaggio was inspired only by young men (female images are absent), also suggests the artist’s unconventional orientation. The first female image in his work was the painting "Penitent Magdalene", painted around 1596.
It is not known why Caravaggio left Monsignor Pucci’s house. Perhaps the prelate had a very heavy disposition. The artist again appears on the Roman streets, deprived of a livelihood. Fortunately, the old friend of the painter, who worked with him in the workshop of Lorenzo Siciliano - the artist Antiveduto Gramatica, sheltered the homeless and impoverished Caravaggio. Grammar enjoyed some success with the public, so it was provided with regular orders.
But misfortunes haunted poor Caravaggio, he fell ill with Roman fever, which was rampant throughout the peninsula. A friend of the artist Longo took him to the convent hospital of Santa Maria della Consolation, where they brought those who did not have the means to pay for treatment. There, Caravaggio was placed in the basement, which was considered a death row.
Quite by accident, the artist caught the eye of the hospital’s prior, Spaniard Senor Conteras, a good friend of Monsignor Pucci, who passed by and recognized Caravaggio. Conteras asked to transfer the terminally ill painter to another room and ordered not to leave his nurses. This alone saved the artist’s life.
But the themes of death and illness, henceforth, as a distant echo of the experience, can be seen in many of his canvases, for example, in the Assumption of Mary. In gratitude for his salvation, Caravaggio painted for Contares paintings, but, unfortunately, they, like many of his other works, have not reached our days.
Six months spent in the hospital, pain and fear, concomitant illnesses left a deep mark in the artist’s soul. It was then that Caravaggio creates one of his most famous works, “Sick Bacchus.” The figure of Bacchus is shown in mirror image: a puffy, pale face and dull eyes indicate the grave condition of the artist himself after the illness. In “Sick Bacchus” we see a god who is no longer able to enjoy the delights of life, enjoy it.
The painting was painted in the workshop of one of the most famous painters of Rome, cavalier Cesare d’Arpino, who sheltered Caravaggio in his house. Cesare d’Arpino was not much older than Caravaggio himself, but was already known as a favorite of high society and was even adopted at the papal court. Belonging to one of the most popular art associations in the capital of Italy - the Academy of the Reckless (which also included poets like Batista Laura, future pope Urban XVII and Torquato Tasso), d’Arpino preferred the divine over the rational. In gratitude for the shelter, Caravaggio had to carry garlands of leaves and flowers for the frescoes of Cesare d’Arpino. On this occasion, a contract was even signed. Murals of Caravaggio contemporaries recognized as perfect.
In the house of Cesare d’Arpino Caravaggio met many of the wealthy philanthropists of Rome: cardinals, merchants, ambassadors, as well as famous artists who enjoy a good reputation: Van Dyck, Jan Brueghel and, possibly, Rubens. Among them was Valentine, who had recently drawn attention from a young artist from France. There is an assumption that later Valentin secretly removed from the workshop of Cesare d’Arpino and sold several works of Caravaggio.
At about that time, the painter created another masterpiece of his own - “The Young Man with a Basket of Fruits”, which Pope Paul V. later presented to his nephew Shipione Borghese. Both paintings (this and “Sick Bacchus”) were in the workshop of the cavalier Cesare d’Arpino 1607 years. Then, they were confiscated by the agents of Pope Paul V, who ascended the throne after Pope Clement VIII, in repayment of debts.
Having no permanent income, Caravaggio turned to Valentin for help, and he advised me to write religious paintings. Indeed, the demand for church painting was huge. Caravaggio accepted the offer, he received paints and brushes, but after a while he brought the agent non-religious work in his second “Bacchus”.
On this canvas we see the ancient god in the form of a thick-skinned youth who is full of health, with characteristic for many of the artist’s characters a bit heavy for centuries. The head of Bacchus is decorated with a traditional wreath of vines, in his hand is a glass of wine, and on the table we see a half-empty decanter. But there are other nuances - slightly withered leaves in a wreath, spoiled stale fruits, which make an attentive viewer think.
Biographer Caravaggio Giovanni Ballone will write: “Bacchus with several branches of grapes painted in different colors is written with great care, as well as with a certain sharpness and dryness of manner; this painting comes from the time when Caravaggio tried to live on his own money, selling his paintings. " In 1916, this work was rediscovered by Roberto Longy, who discovered it in the depository of the Uffizi Gallery.
Caravaggio’s extraordinary talent was appreciated with a 300-year delay. It is not known for sure whether the customer accepted Bacchus or the work never went on sale; in any case, its implementation could not help the master solve his material problems. Valentin, who believed in Caravaggio’s enormous artistic talent, persuaded the artist to accept an order for the execution of work of religious content, but the stubborn, in spite of everything, began to work on a new work - he wrote The Fortune Teller.
On the canvas we see either a street scene, or one of the episodes of the folk theater. Valentine paid Caravaggio for her 30 thalers! Subsequently, the work was donated by Prince Doria-Pamphili to the French King Louis XIV and is currently stored in the Louvre.
An X-ray examination of the work showed that under the image of the young fortuneteller there is an earlier picture in a manner close to Cesare d’Arpino. Perhaps Caravaggio simply saved money on canvas. The vulgarity of this scene shocked the contemporaries of the artist, but it was she who later inspired another painter - the Frenchman Georges de Latour, to create a picture under the same name and on the same plot. Having received the money, Caravaggio immediately rushed towards adventures, fights, and brawls, which forced the papal police to again conduct strict supervision of his life.
What happened next? How did Valentine manage to persuade the wayward artist to return to the righteous path? Probably, in this struggle with the rebellious disposition of Caravaggio, he used the name of one of the richest collectors of art of this period - Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte. Finally, the painter agrees to write for the cardinal a picture on a religious theme, which became the first in his work.
True, the artist set his condition: complete freedom in choosing a topic. Caravaggio immediately refused to write the traditional scenes of the crucifixion and martyrdom. As an object for the image, the artist chose the theme of ecstasy, consonant with both his pictorial manner and his artistic temperament. He begins the monumental work Ecstasy of St. Francis. Caravaggio decisively takes up the creation of the canvas, settling down in the basement of the house of Valentine in order to finish this difficult task for him as soon as possible.
The work was to be a highly artistic, masterful work that could open the doors of Caravaggio to the collections of major Roman art lovers. At the same time, she would have made him famous and helped to gain favor with wealthy and authoritative people. Modern researchers of the artist’s work consider Ecstasy of St. Francis the first mature work of Caravaggio.
The genius of innovation
The work “Ecstasy of St. Francis” caused a lot of controversy and discussion. The writer Dominic Fernandez sees in her the birth of genuine Baroque. The plot of the picture unfolds against the backdrop of a night forest. In the background, Caravaggio portrayed simple shepherds who lit a fire. In his light, the figure of the sleeping accompanying saint, Brother Leon, clearly emerges. St. Francis reveals stigmata in a state of mystical ecstasy.
No one before Caravaggio depicted a scene of religious ecstasy like this: a saint lies in the arms of an angel, the image of which is embodied in the form of a seductive young man, strongly reminiscent of the favorite models of the painter. The figure of an angel, in spite of the wings behind it, does not soar, but as it were, falling to the ground. Trying to find new expressive and expressive means, the artist enhances the play of light and solves the whole composition as a theatrical reenactment, trying in this way to achieve not only a significant artistic effect, but also more persuasiveness.
The Ecstasy of St. Francis did his work - laid the foundation for Caravaggio’s fame as a religious painter. Other monumental works by the artist followed, such as The Conversion of Saul from the Church of Santa Maria del Pololo. Cardinal del Monte, appreciating the innovativeness of the painter, invites Caravaggio to the Palazzo Madama.
Francesco Maria del Monte was the Ambassador of the Tuscan Duke at the court of Pantifex Maximus. His residence was located in the Villa Medici. The cardinal was a very educated person: he knew Hebrew, Ancient Greek and other eastern languages. He was a big fan of music and painting, always open to new ideas. Thanks to this, Caravaggio made a good impression on him, and the cardinal gave him creative freedom and full content. Living in the palace of Madama and perceived as a pupil of the cardinal, Caravaggio turned into a sought-after and famous artist. True, they not only admired him, but also hated him.
Protected from all adversities, well-provided, and maybe even in love, the artist began to get used to a quiet life. Which, however, did not affect the sharpness and sharpness of his pictorial language, which was constantly honed. He was absorbed in the search for the most dramatic scenes, and embodying his ideas, he resorted to a wealth of contrasts, a play of light and shadow, giving his paintings vitality and persuasiveness.
Meanwhile, a change of centuries was approaching. Mannerism as an art movement gradually fell into decline: the Renaissance has become history. It was the time of the Edict of Nantes, which put an end to religious wars in Europe. France and Italy entered into an alliance: Henry IV married Maria Medici. Michelangelo Merisi, who now took the name Caravaggio, at this time was 25 years old.
Being a pupil of the cardinal, who happily acquired most of his works, the artist could completely surrender to inspiration - “the fury of the moment”. He began to write not only religious, but also genre paintings. The "Penitent Magdalene" by Caravaggio is surprisingly real. By the way, a model from the street named Julia served as a model for the painter. Two years later, he created the painting “The Circulation of Magdalene”, which is distinguished by an even more painstaking study of all the details.
In the house of Cardinal del Monte Caravaggio writes his famous still life "Fruit Basket". The basket hovering above the table seems unusually material. Along with fresh juicy fruits, the master “filled” it with overripe fruits and wilted leaves. This canvas never adorned the collection of del Monte, the cardinal only later discovered it in the workshop of the gentleman Cesare d’Arpino, to which the artist himself gave it, as compensation for debts. Later they forgot about Caravaggio’s still life. Until recently, the “Fruit Basket” was part of the Dutch school of painting. Only the 1919 scientific study conducted by Longy proved the authorship of Caravaggio.
Soon, the artist left the Palazzo Madama and moved to the house of Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, who was one of Valentin’s customers. Influenced by the constant advice and guidance of his friend, Caravaggio again turns to the development of religious topics, without losing faith in his ideas and principles. The artist searches for dramatic situations in history and in life, strengthens them with the theatricality of compositional solutions, with extraordinary contrasts of light and shadow, giving his works a completely new sound.
The works “Taking Christ into custody” (National Gallery, Dublin, Ireland) and “The Donation of Isaac” are devoted to stories from biblical history. The most attractive in “The Donation of Isaac” is a high humanistic interpretation of the image of an angel appearing to Abraham, bringing a dagger over his son. The angel gestures to the ram, which should be laid on the altar instead of the boy.
In the painting "St. Catherine of Alexandria" the artist depicts in the background a frightening torture wheel with steel spikes. Caravaggio masterfully balances the composition by correlating the dark and light parts. The work, which for some time was in the collection of del Monte, was sold by his heirs to the Barberini family, from which it then fell into the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection in 1935.
The painting "John the Baptist" belongs to the same period, the creation of which was inspired by the figures of the naked youths of Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel. He also writes another Mary Magdalene, performed in the manner of the Venetian masters (“Conversion of Magdalene”). On this canvas, in addition to Magdalen, leaning on a round large mirror, we see another character - Marta, who is introduced by Caravaggio. The model for Martha was Filis Melandrone, who worked with the artist and while writing St. Catherine.
The cardinal’s insistent personal request and great demand for religious painting forced the painter to continue working on works on biblical themes. All his subsequent works dealt a crushing blow to the fundamental direction of European art - mannerism.
Soon, Caravaggio decides to write a canvas on one of the worst moments of Jewish history described in the Old Testament. He writes Judith and Holofernes, where he depicts the moment when Judith was chopped off to the Assyrian tyrant Holofernes. The model for Judith was also Filis Melandrone. Initially, the artist portrayed Judith with bare breasts, but subsequently, was forced to “cover” her with a corsage. A little away from the heroine is waiting for an elderly servant. She readily holds a linen napkin to wrap the victim’s head in it. The image of the old maid was created by Caravaggio under the impression of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Head of the Old Man”.
The painting "Rest on the Flight into Egypt" vividly demonstrates both the acceptance and denial of the traditions of religious painting. The brown hair of the Mother of God contrasts with the light-red curls of the Baby Jesus. An angel written from the back plays the cello; his gaze is fixed on the score that Joseph holds. The artist portrayed the husband of Virgin Mary as barefoot and gray-bearded, he sits on a bag, next to which we see a half-drunk bottle of wine. Serving as a backdrop, the landscape frames the whole composition. He and the pattern of flowers and leaves are stylistically close to the paintings of Giorgione, but, of course, Caravaggio surpasses him by the strength of his talent.
The canvas "Rest on the Road to Egypt" was perceived ambiguously by the public and received a variety of ratings. However, the cardinal gave Caravaggio a new order for painting the ceiling of his residence (currently, there is the villa of Boncompany Ludovisi). The artist completed the order in the mid-1590s. This fresco is still the only known work of Caravaggio in the field of wall painting. The painter demonstrates the astounding skill of owning a perspective. The figures of Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto, depicted by him in a fresco, testify to the extraordinary abilities of the 26-year-old artist. Although the work was very favorably received by enlightened connoisseurs of art, Valentine expected more from the artist.He helps Caravaggio conclude a major contract for painting scenes from the life of the Apostle Matthew of the largest Roman church of San Luigi dei Francesi.
Under this contract, the artist created two monumental canvases - “Martyrdom of the Apostle Matthew” and “The Calling of the Apostle Matthew”, which still adorn the church of San Luigi dei Francesi, located in the same place where they were identified during the artist’s time. They are vivid evidence of a new stage in the life and work of Caravaggio.
This picturesque ensemble was the largest of all performed in the artist’s life. And the result of his work was astounding. The monumental works written by him, which are based on an innovative look at biblical subjects, gave rise to passionate debate, both among clergymen and among art connoisseurs. This is not surprising, given that at the beginning of the XVII century church paintings and frescoes were in the spotlight and caused keen interest not only among the clergy, but also among all lovers of painting, so everyone was eager to see new works by painters.
The story of this order is rather unusual. Cardinal Matteo Contarelli, who wished to dedicate the chapel to St. Matthew, his heavenly patron, invited painters and sculptors to decorate the church. The work was not yet completed at the time of the death of the cardinal, and the question of their completion was further discussed at numerous church councils. Among the artists involved in the chapel of Contarelli, Girolamo Muziano and the gentleman Cesare d’Arpino, who painted the vaults and ceiling of the church with scenes from the life of the saint, should be noted. He was going to fresco all the walls of the chapel, but for unknown reasons could not continue to work. Its completion was entrusted to Caravaggio. The contract dated June 25, 1599, which was concluded with the artist, has survived. According to him, Caravaggio received a reward of 400 scudos.
In fact, it is not clear why the choice fell on Caravaggio, and not on other, more famous in those years, Roman masters. Probably, the mediation of the artist’s all-powerful patrons: Cardinal del Monte and the wealthy Genoese philanthropist and aristocrat Vincenzo Giustiniani played a large role here. Of course, the painter was flattered by the honor shown to him, and immediately set to work. But here one problem became clear: Masses regularly served in the chapel of Contarelli, and therefore it was impossible to establish the forests necessary for creating large-format compositions. Caravaggio offered his way out of the situation - he decided to make large-format oil paintings on canvas of 3.40 x 3.24 meters in oil! None of his contemporaries have yet completed orders of this magnitude. After a little thought, the clergy agreed.
The painter did not meet the deadlines stipulated by the contract and submitted his work several months later. He completed the “Martyrdom of the Apostle Matthew” in time for early 1600. Caravaggio repeatedly changed the composition of the canvas in search of the most successful solution. The painter depicted the scene, which took place in the courtyard of the king of Ethiopia, who ordered the execution of St. Matthew, who preached the gospel there. The executioner, holding his sword at the ready, was already bending over the resisting martyr to kill him. An angel extends to the saint a palm branch - the emblem of martyrdom for faith. In the distance stands a young man with a tender face, involuntarily trying to distance himself from the terrible scene that is taking place. The fleeing boy turns away, his face expresses unspeakable horror. In one of the characters of the canvas,Caravaggio himself can be seen as a witness to this crime - a middle-aged man with a beard and an exhausted expression on his face. This is the artist’s third self-portrait.
The painting “Martyrdom of the Apostle Matthew” conquers, first of all, with realistic authenticity, emotional richness and utmost convincingness of images. Hermann Foss writes: “At a time when Caravaggio began to use the lighting method he invented in developing multi-figure compositions, he felt the need to abandon the linear-planar image means used by Zuccaro and Giuseppino. His competitors did not hesitate to make critical judgments. One of the theorists of Roman mannerism, the artist Zuccaro, spoke as follows: “A lot of noise from nothing! I see nothing here but a copy of the Giorgione style! ”
Recognition of talent
The painting “The Calling of the Apostle Matthew”, executed a few months later and set in a chapel next to the composition “Martyrdom”, provided further food for conversation. The artist showed the mystery of “Calling” in the form of a scene from Roman everyday life. Realizing his bold plan, Caravaggio chooses the location of one of the Roman taverns, in which gamblers are usually found. In the original, an episode of the gospel story takes place in a room that meets modern customs. After all, it is about the main tax collector, the chief tax collector who controls the collection of taxes.
In the canvas, light falls from above and illuminates only the right side of the room. The only window is tightly closed and appears walled up. The painter depicted a situation completely unsuitable for performing the sacrament of conversion, however, it is here that Jesus appears. Entering, he points with his hand to the chosen tax collector, and this gesture is somewhat reminiscent of the movement of the hand of the god of hosts, from the fresco "Creation of the World" by Michelangelo.
Finally, Caravaggio becomes famous. He convincingly proved that in painting a harmonious combination of the divine with the everyday is possible. Jesus’ appearance in the tax collection office, shown on his canvas, does not look blasphemous. True, this innovation in church painting caused endless debate. Nevertheless, the executors of the will of Cardinal Contarelli were satisfied and immediately instructed the artist to fulfill the central image for the church altar. The motive of the last image was determined in advance - the Apostle Matthew and the angel. The painter on time presented the work to customers, but it was rejected due to the fact that Caravaggio endowed the image of the saint with the characteristic features of a simple peasant, depicting him bearded, bald, with bare and dirty legs.
Under the pressure of the clergy, Caravaggio presents the second version of the picture, with a completely different interpretation of the plot. In the second version of the work, the painter refuses to demonstrate the emotional closeness between the apostle and something an angel whispering in his ear. The altar image of St. Matthew, created by Caravaggio, can still be seen today in the chapel of the church of San Luigi dei Francesi. The artistic ensemble of three monumental canvases for a long time remained in the darkness of the basement of the chapel of Contarelli in complete oblivion, until he was "revived" from oblivion by Roberto Longa. The first show of these works took place in 1922 at an exhibition organized in Florence.
These sensational paintings brought Caravaggio unprecedented success. He immediately received a new order. Now the artist had to do work on a religious theme for another chapel, standing on the most beautiful square of Rome - Cherazi in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo. The chapel, located to the left of the altar, was bought by the Cherazi family for the family tomb.
It was 1601, Caravaggio finally had students, one of whom, Giovanni, even moved to his teacher, in the basement of the Palazzo del Monte. The artist, meanwhile, was completing the Assumption of Mary painting for the chapel of Cherubini in the church of Santa Maria della Scala in Trastevere, commissioned by the mendicant Carmelite monks with the direct mediation of Marquis Giustiniani.
The canvas "Assumption of Mary" was to become the largest in the altar of the chapel. The composition of the picture shows us the dying Mary. Her room is poor, the whole wretched environment consists of a towering bed, a chair and a washing vessel. The deathbed is covered by a large red curtain that hangs directly from the ceiling beam. Longy notes: “The picture tells us what the death of a woman from the common people looks like… The pain of everyone standing by the bed is impressive and receives unlimited power of influence thanks to a stream of light that fights shadows, falling from the left and illuminating the flickering flaming colors from the inside. The sorrow and shock of those present, expressively emphasized by the lighting, seem infinitely huge, inexhaustible. "
Not surprisingly, the Carmelite monks rejected the picture. It was not without rumors. Did the artist not invite a woman of easy virtue as a model for the main character? Caravaggio depicted the body of the deceased Maria in such a way that everything indicated a severe illness. Even the foreground image of a bowl of vinegar water, designed to wash the dead, was itself blasphemy and alerted the church. It should be recalled that a year earlier in Rome, Giordano Bruno, who rejected religious dogmatism, was burnt at the stake of the Inquisition.
The Assumption of Mary product did not find a buyer for a long time, until the Mantuan Duke of Vincenzo Gonzaga purchased it for his own collection on the advice of Rubens. Rubens was delighted with the courage and power of Caravaggio’s painting, his skill in transmitting light and shadow. The Assumption of Mary work, like most of the duke’s collection, was sold to Charles I in England in 1628. For some time after the death of the king, the painting belonged to a Paris banker, then it was acquired by Louis XIV.
During this period, Caravaggio again begins to meet with his friends from poor neighborhoods, and does not at all try to conclude a profitable contract with the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, which Valentine is very worried about. Nevertheless, the painter agrees to write a monumental painting for the wealthy banker Marquis Giustiniani - “Crowning with a crown of thorns”. The original version of the picture, which was long considered a copy, was identified only in 1974, it is in the Prato Art Gallery.
In addition to her, the master, for an incredibly short time, writes another large-sized work - “The Position in the Coffin”, which is now in the Vatican. In this work, his extraordinary vision of light and shadow and his talent for working with “revived” colors were surprisingly manifested. The painting was Caravaggio’s only work on a religious theme, without delay and positively received by customers from the church of Santa Maria in Vallicella, speaking on behalf of Monsignor Vitrici. Later, Rubens made a copy of this work, slightly changing the composition.
Soon, an important contract with the church of Santa Maria del Popolo for 400 scudos, with the direct assistance of Valentine, was concluded. This money allowed Caravaggio to pay off debts and gain some independence. Initially, according to the contract, the artist was supposed to write paired works of small format, executed on cypress boards, however, in the end, Caravaggio painted them on canvas with oil paints. The plots were proposed by Senor Cherazi: “The Crucifixion of the Apostle Peter” and “The Conversion of Saul”. Most likely, the painter enthusiastically fulfilled this order, which was classical in every respect.
Nevertheless, the clergy strongly rejected the first version of the paintings created by the artist, which gave rise to the creation of their second versions. The original version of the painting “The Crucifixion of the Apostle Peter” is in the Hermitage, in St. Petersburg, while the first version of the “Conversion of Saul” is lost. The second version of The Crucifixion was created with such utter realism and so convincing that the Carmelite monks accepted it with fear. Caravaggio portrays executioners who are trying to raise a large cross with the saints nailed to it. The artist painted the apostle Peter with a sitter, who posed for him for the painting "Rest on the Flight into Egypt" and paintings located in San Luigi Lei Francesi. The "Crucifixion of the Apostle Peter" was accepted by customers, although with some discontent.
The painting “The Appeal of Saul” was twice rejected by the monks before it was placed in the chapel of Cherazi. The fact was that such an interpretation of the biblical plot, as in the painting “Assumption of Mary,” was an unthinkable provocation. It is enough to note that almost the entire space of the canvas is reserved for the image of the horse. One of the prelates of the church of Santa Maria del Popolo stubbornly disputed this artistic decision with Caravaggio himself. A church servant recorded this conversation for the story: “Why is the horse in the middle, and does the Apostle Saul lie on the ground?” - “So it is necessary!” - “Should this horse replace God?” - “No, but it stands in the light of God.”
Berneson notes that "… Caravaggio anticipates something from the sculptors of our time…". Roberto Longi believes that both canvases from the church of Santa Maria del Popolo are vivid proof of the artistic genius of the master. “Caravaggio’s experiments in the field of painting finally allowed him to apply the reduction of deep shadows, and this, of course, increased the impact of his tragic and courageous realism… Caravaggio completely changes the traditional iconography. Perhaps this is the most revolutionary picture in the history of religious art, which helped to make an important turning point in the colossal spiritual development of society, ”he writes. Anthony Blunt is more concise, but argues that it was this painting by Caravaggio that inspired Georges de Latour to create the painting "St. Joseph the Carpenter."
Due to being late with the execution of the order, Caravaggio was fined 100 scudos. Works from Santa Maria, as well as paintings from San Luigi, were gradually forgotten. One of the reasons for this was the too high placement of paintings in the premises of the church. Both the "Conversion of Saul" and the "Crucifixion of the Apostle Peter" were located in partial shade under the ceiling, so that it was almost impossible to make out. Only in the 20th century did their rebirth take place.
The artist was very sensitive to criticism. Absorbed in indignation and resentment, he plunges headlong into a wild life. For months, Valentine had not heard anything about him. And Caravaggio wandered around the outskirts of Rome with a young groom named Benedetto and his friend Lionello Spada. However, Valentine still managed to get on his trail. Having sought out the painter, he suggested that he create a series of paintings on famous mythological subjects. So the paintings “Narcissus” and “Cupid the Victor” (1603) were born.
The canvases put up for sale provoked extremely hostile criticism from art dealers, who considered them indecent. Perhaps the model for the figure of Amur, depicted by the painter as a very earthly, playful child, was the groom Benedicto. Armed with arrows, the little boy, unashamedly, taunts the symbols of love, art, power and power. The work has a meaningful inscription: Amor vinciti omnia ("Love conquers all"). In addition, there were rumors that Amur the Conqueror was created as a parody of Michelangelo’s famous Victory statue in the Vecchio Palace in Florence. Others saw in it a hint of the image of St. Bartholomew from the fresco "The Last Judgment" of the Sistine Chapel. Of course, Caravaggio laid bare the homosexual theme in the work of his great predecessor.
The period from 1602 to 1606 was filled not only with creativity, but also with adventurous adventures, constant clashes with the servants of the law, and the payment of countless fines. For example, a certain Girolamo Spampa painter wounded with a sword for offensive reviews of his works. A little later, he was accused of composing and publishing defamatory verses about the painter and his future biographer Ballon. This happened just when the artist finished the work of Ascension for the Roman Church del Gesu. Then, for the composition of the sensational libelous libel (which was not forgiven in Rome), the painter was sent to Torre di Nona prison, even there managing to behave in a bad way. The statements of Caravaggio, replete with insolence, lies and slander, did not contribute in any way to the indulgence of the judges.
If it were not for the intercession of two, or even three cardinals and the Marquis Giustiniani, Caravaggio would inevitably have received a long prison term, given the many previous convictions. But the artist repented, promised not to commit any more unseemly acts, and even asked for forgiveness from Ballon, after which he was released. So he had the opportunity to finish the work "David with the Head of Goliath." In it, the artist freed himself from the influence of mannerism and gave a completely new interpretation of space and light. Three years later, Caravaggio wrote another version of this canvas. Soon he signed a contract for the creation of the monumental work "Madonna di Loreto", for the chapel of Cavaletti in the Roman church of Sant Agostino. The artist set to work, but this work did not bring him happiness. Despite the warningsCaravaggio invites him to pose for a prostitute from Piazza Navona named Helen.
The former notary public, Mariano Pascvalone, openly expressed his indignation at this fact. This or something else caused a strong conflict between the painter and the notary, which ended up with the bloodied Pascvalone appearing in the courtyard and explaining that he was beaten up by the artist Caravaggio in front of the palace of the Spanish ambassador. The scandalous and criminally punished incident forced Caravaggio to urgently leave Rome.
He travels to Genoa in 1604 and receives the patronage of the Duke Marzio Colonna, who was his protector since his studies in Milan. There, Caravaggio receives an offer from Prince Marcantonio Doria, who wished that the artist painted his residence in frescoes. But the painter refuses a lucrative contract. Now in the gallery of the Palazzo Bianchi is Caravaggio’s work “The Man” (Ecce Homo, 1606), which, perhaps, was written precisely at this artist’s visit to Genoa. True, this is not proven.
Suddenly, the notary Mariano Pascvalone withdraws his complaint against Caravaggio and the artist returns to Rome. There he ends the Madonna di Loreto. On this incredibly popular painting Virgin Mary is depicted “floating in the sky” inside the space of the altar. The artist decides to present her in a simple peasant guise at the moment when she meets two barefoot, dirty pilgrims with touching meekness and reverence. The face of the Madonna is filled with infinite modesty, and the Baby Jesus, whom she holds in her hands, looks at the elders with a mixed sense of curiosity and anxiety. The interpretation of the pilgrim images is especially impressive in the work.
The picture, as always, caused a lot of controversy and endless discussions, during which the painter appeared both new fans and new irreconcilable enemies. The priests of the church of Sant Agostino could not decide to accept the work and, therefore, pay for the contract of Caravaggio. A letter from one clergyman is preserved in the state archive of the city of Modena, where he describes the artist’s problems with justice and his trial in the judicial curia.
Soon a new incident occurred, which, of course, only exacerbated the situation of the painter. At a fun meal in Albergo del Moro, the boy-waiter indiscreetly and casually served Caravaggio, and he threw a plate of artichokes into it. This led to a brawl and the troublemaker was arrested. The artist again appeared in the court yard, which he left only thanks to his patrons. Trying to somehow rehabilitate himself and justify himself, Caravaggio takes an order for two canvases: "St. Francis with a Skull" and "Writing Jerome", intended for the church of Capuchin monks.
Around the same period, the work “Christ in the Olive Grove”, destroyed in 1945 during the bombing of Berlin, dates back. We can only see copies of it now. During the same years, Longo dates “John the Baptist” from the Borghese Gallery and another version of the painting “Christ at Emmaus”, which is now in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan.
This period was the most fruitful for all the time Caravaggio was in Rome. In the second version of the painting “Christ at Emmaus”, the artist achieves supreme mastery in the compositional construction of the picture, in which the figures of five biblical characters fill almost the entire space of the canvas.
The patronage of the Duke of Colonna helped make Caravaggio’s orders increasingly numerous. Now, his creative genius could be fully revealed, and the award to the artist was not long in coming. Despite the painter’s notoriety, Cardinal Shipione Borghese’s nephew received permission from Pope Paul V himself to entrust Caravaggio with the execution of the image of the Madonna for St. Peter’s Basilica.
Absolutely all the Roman painters of that time dreamed of working in this largest cathedral in the world. According to the terms of the contract, it was necessary to decorate the most important altar of the Palafrenieri chapel, one of the most notable families of Italy, which included Pope Paul V. The commission of the cardinals from the church council specifically Caravaggio was an excellent opportunity for the artist to completely restore the damaged reputation and establish his position as one of the best painters of Rome, and all of Italy.
But, as always, Caravaggio’s obstinacy ruined everything. Despite the advice and warnings, the artist again invites street model Helen as a model. He fulfills the order unusually quickly - all work on the canvas was completed in just three days, after which it was presented to the public.
It was an indescribable collapse of all the ambitions and hopes of the painter. Never before had Caravaggio been able to advance so much in a realistic interpretation of the gospel story and the vitality of the images. As might be expected, most of the public considered the work monstrously vulgar. The Madonna Palafrenieri was categorically rejected by the clergy, and the doors that could open the artist the path to fame and fortune were closed forever. “We do not see anything in this picture except vulgarity, sacrilege, lack of divinity and beauty,” wrote one of the secretaries of the Cardinals Council. Then, like his rivals: cavalier Cesare d’Arpino, Pomerancho, Passignano and Giovanni Ballone and others, actively climbed to the top of fame - the Academy of Saint Luke herself, on the way being awarded the honor of receiving a knight’s cross,Caravaggio forever lost the opportunity to be recognized by high society and papal authority.
The painter again goes into all seriouss and soon again finds himself in Torre di Nona prison. Now we are talking about a more serious crime. One of the papal guards was found dead, watching the artist at night - someone broke his head with a stone. The painter tried to prove his innocence: he assured that the stone accidentally fell off the roof just at the moment when this man passed there. But the court rejected this version, and Caravaggio was imprisoned.
The artist was shackled and interrogated for a long time, he was even sentenced to beating with sticks. Perhaps this suffering Caravaggio then reflected on the canvas "Flagellation of Christ", which he will write later in Naples. Friends feared for his life and saw his salvation only in flight.
Caravaggio’s escape from prison was a success, but now he has been blacklisted by the papal police. Neither the artist himself, nor his friends, had any idea how to get rid of the persecution. But the most regrettable is the fact that the artist did not want to learn from his mistakes.
In the harbor of Ripetta on the banks of the Tiber River, Caravaggio again resumed his adventures and fights, periodically hiding in the Palazzo Colonna. May 29, 1606, during a ball game on the Field of Mars, the artist accused Ranuccio Tomassoni of deceiving his partner. This led to a fight. Weapons were launched, as a result, Tomassoni fell dead. The painter was also wounded, but managed to escape.
After this scandal, his friends were detained, and he himself was sentenced to death. At that time, such a sentence meant that every law enforcement officer, anywhere and anytime, upon detection of a fugitive, could execute the sentence.
Caravaggio cried out for help to his patrons, but they were already tired of the endless requests of the artist, who did not want to behave prudently. Weak and sick, the painter had to hide again. He wanted to take refuge in the lands of the Column or in Lacy located outside the Roman limits.
At the age of 35, the painter enters the last period of his life. Rome never promised him wealth, however, but provided him with the means of subsistence sufficient for the development of his genius. Caravaggio never returned to the Eternal City. Although every minute he hoped for a return, hiding in a secret shelter. The fugitive, poisoned by illness, hatred and the threat of death, begins to write his masterpieces at an incredible, “inhuman” pace. His latest works are filled with passion, grandeur and strength.
Balancing on the brink
Having fled from Rome in May 1606, Caravaggio, who had the glory of one of the best painters of the Eternal City, did not expect pardon, so he preferred to move away from the papal detectives. Without hesitation, he headed to Naples - a large, densely populated city, literally glowing with new ideas, artistic movements and revolutionary spirit.
Here, the artist almost immediately receives an order from a wealthy Ragus merchant. Caravaggio creates a large altar image “Madonna with the rosary” for the altar of the Dominican church, which has a second name - “Madonna del Rosario”. This canvas marked the beginning of a new stage in his work.
The finished work caused a conflict between the artist and the Dominican monks, who recognized themselves in the characters depicted on the canvas. This contradicted the traditional concept of religious painting. The painter uses sharp contrasts of chiaroscuro for emphasized volumetric, very material transmission of forms, while the pictorial techniques themselves indicate the artist’s return to his early style of writing.
As a result, the painting was bought by the painter Louis Finsonius from Bruges. He sent her to Antwerp, where the art association, which included Rubens, Van Balen and Jan Brueghel, acquired it for the Dominican Cathedral for 1800 guilders. In 1781, Joseph II, king of Austria-Hungary, bought it from the monks, having come in complete admiration.
The new order, soon received by Caravaggio, was also not appreciated by the customer. This time, the artist was supposed to write a canvas for the church of Pio Monte della Misericordia. The customer was the head of the city curia. The painter was instructed to create the monumental trans-altar image “Seven Works of Mercy”.
The master decides to combine seven episodes described in the Gospel of Matthew in one canvas. The painting, like the Madonna del Rosario, is distinguished by a Neapolitan style, which was especially pronounced in the character of the characters and the composition. Rich and poor, plebeians and nobles are united in one night scene. A simple woman from the people at the door of the prison breastfeeds the old man: “for I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat” (“Gospel of Matthew”). Nearby, a thin gentleman takes a sword to cut off a piece of cloth from his cloak and cover him with a beggar. The owner of an overnight stay gives a thirsty person a drink, and the latter, like Samson, uses a donkey’s jaw instead of a bowl. Another character in the picture meets the emaciated wanderer and sacrifices his traveling clothing to him. And the last act of mercy captured by Caravaggio is the burial of the deceased.The deceased is carried out from around the corner of the house, a wall hides part of his body.
Opinions of both contemporaries of the artist and critics of our century differ. Someone considers the picture grotesque, someone sees in it the “last flash” of the genius of Caravaggio. But one thing is obvious, this is an unusually highly artistic, masterful work, which had an undeniable influence on Rembrandt, Velazquez and Franz Hals. Ribera directly borrowed from Caravaggio the figures of the wanderer and the host of the inn, for his painting “Five Senses”.
For an eight-month stay in Naples, the artist created two versions of the painting “The Flagellation of Christ”, which became the artistic embodiment of the torture experienced by Caravaggio in Rome. Mina Gregory writes of the first version: "Darkness emphasizes the inner strength of Christ." The scientist Roberto Longi considers this work one of the most amazing in Caravaggio: "Cruelty, ruthlessness, atrocities and infinite fear of God are in conflict with each other."
On both versions of the picture we see the same faces of the tormentors, which suggests the personal vengeance of the artist to the guards of the prison in which he was imprisoned. For several months, the persecuted criminal Caravaggio became the most fruitfully working and famous artist of Naples. However, he suddenly leaves the city and heads for Malta.
The reasons for this are unknown. Perhaps Caravaggio found out about papal spies, or maybe decided to become an honorary knight of the Order of Malta. In July 1607, the artist sailed on a ship to La Valletta, the capital of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, the noble defenders of the Christian faith from Maghreb pirates and Islam. The Maltese period of Caravaggio’s work was remarkable for its unprecedented fertility. The painter spent less than six months on the island, but all this time, he wrote at an incredible pace, creating a number of works on genre and religious themes. The paintings of this period were very different from everything created by Caravaggio earlier. So much so that for a long time, these canvases were attributed to other authors.
As soon as he arrived in Malta, the artist received an offer to write Jerome for one of the chapels of the Cathedral of San Giovanni dei Cavalieri. The work was incredibly liked by the great master of the order - Alofude Vinyakur. He immediately offers Caravaggio to create the monumental painting “The Beheading of the Head of John the Baptist”.
The canvas "The Beheading of the Head of John the Baptist" has received widespread recognition. Artists from all over Europe specially came to see him. The picture is dominated by light and empty space, the viewer almost physically feels the last convulsions of the body of a decapitated martyr, spread out on the floor with his hands chained behind his back. The executioner seemed to have just raised his sword. Salome holds the cup to receive the head of John. An old woman resembling Magda from Caravaggio’s work “Christ at Emmaus” clutched her head in utter despair. Two prisoners are watching through what is happening in their cell. Pietro Ambrodzhiani writes: "The idea itself is born that the artist conveyed his personal memories in this picture." On the original frame of the work is the coat of arms of Alof de Vignacour.
The painting “The Beheading of the Head of John the Baptist” was the only work signed by Caravaggio. The artist’s autograph can be seen in the bloody trail from the head of the martyr. Perhaps this painter equates himself to the victim. The letter “F” in front of his name means “fra” (“brother”), which means that Caravaggio was already included in the Order of Malta at the end of the painting.
The Grand Master instructs Caravaggio to paint his portrait. The artist willingly began work on "Portrait of Alof de Vignacour". But the painter’s restless disposition did not give him rest. He could not resist making a note of sarcasm, scandal and life itself in a solemn and pathos canvas.
Next to the terrifying look of a knight in archaic armament, Caravaggio portrays a beautiful page carrying a train of his master. The work, revolutionary in terms of its influence, really shocked the church environment. The image of a knight vowing celibacy and his attractive page with a provocative look was incredibly famous.
From this picture he made drawings in his Delacroix albums. Manet also turned to this work while working on the painting “The Child with the Ball” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). Louis XIV bought the “Portrait of Alof de Vignacour” in 1670 for 14,000 livres. Of course, the picture became the occasion for another scandal.
At the same time, Caravaggio creates his “Sleeping Cupid”, the artistic image of which resembles a child in the “Madonna Palafrenieri”, but this time it is written more modestly: the penumbra hides its floor. These two works again brought to the painter the wrath of those in power. Soon, the convert “Honorary Knight” was captured, beaten and imprisoned by Sant’Angelo.
The indictment has not been preserved in the archives of the order, but there is other evidence that the "brother of Michelangelo" was convicted in an attempt to seduce the young son of the minister or inspector of the order. The fact that the sentence disappeared may indicate that the clergy tried to hide it. Righteous knights were overcome by anger. In a different version, the artist became a victim of a conspiracy of the brothers of the order, outraged by his “inappropriate” work “Sleeping Cupid”. All this taken together was the reason for the exclusion of the painter from the order “as a spoiled and dishonoring brother”.
Caravaggio managed to escape from prison and move to the island of Sicily. For some time, the painter remained in Syracuse, where he created the painting "Burial of Saint Lucia" for the local church. This was his first order in Sicily.
And here, Caravaggio’s artistic
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