CARAVAGGIO
MICHELANGELO MERISI da
(1573-1610)

Caravaggio was probably the most revolutionary artist of his time, for he abandoned the rules that had guided a century of artists who had idealized both the human and religious experience. Although he drew some inspiration from the Carracci family, Caravaggio can be said almost single-handedly to have created the Baroque style.

Born Michelangelo Merisi on Sept. 28, 1573, in Caravaggio, Italy, after a brief apprenticeship in Milan, he went to Rome and worked as an assistant to painters of lesser skill. About 1595 he began to sell his paintings. He caught the attention of Cardinal Francesco del Monte who commissed Caravaggio, at age 24, to paint for the church of San Luigi dei Francesi. In its Contarelli Chapel Caravaggio's realistic naturalism first fully appeared in three scenes he created of the life of St. Matthew. The works caused public outcry because of their realistic and dramatic nature. Despite or perhaps because of this violent criticism, his reputation increased. Unfortunately at about the same time, Caravaggio had many encounters with the law. He was imprisoned for several assaults and for killing an opponent after a disputed score in a game of court tennis. Caravaggio fled the city and kept moving between hiding places. He reached Naples, probably early in 1607, and painted there for a time, awaiting a pardon by the pope. Here there was a change in his painting style. The dark and urgent nature of his paintings at this time must have reflected Caravaggio's desperate state of mind.

Early in 1608 Caravaggio went to Malta and was received as a celebrated artist. Fearful of pursuit, he continued to flee for two more years, but his paintings of this time were among the greatest of his career. After receiving a pardon from the pope, he was wrongfully arrested and imprisoned for two days. A boat that was to take him to Rome left without him, taking his belongings. Misfortune, exhaustion, and illness overtook him as he helplessly watched the boat depart. He collapsed on the beach and died a few days later on July 18, 1610.

 For information on individual works, and enlargement of picture, click on thumbnail.

 Bacchus (1593)
 The Musicians (1595)
 Young Bacchus (1596)
 The Lute Player (1597)


 Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1597
 Judith and Holifernes (1598)
 Martha and Mary (1598)
 Christ Taken in the Garden (1598)


 The Calling of St. Matthew (1600)
 Detail: Calling of Matthew (1600)
 Death of St.Matthew (1600)
 Inspiration of St. Matthew (1602)


 Conversion of St.Paul (1600)
 Paul on Road to Damascus (1602)
 Martyrdom of St.Peter (1602)
 Supper at Emmaus (1601)


 Doubting Thomas (1601)
 Entombment of Christ (1602)
 Dormition of the Virgin (1606)
 Peter's Denial (1610)


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