Caravaggio is classified as an Italian Baroque painter although the only similarity I see is the time period. His work is characterized by simple dark backgrounds and a play of light across subject’s faces AND the use of non-idealized models in non-idealized situations. He supposedly did no preliminary drawings or sketches and worked directly on the canvas. His subjects have dirty fingernails and warts and wrinkles—in short, they look like regular people.
The exhibit included painters from Spain, Netherlands, France and so forth who studied his work and tried to emulate it; none so successfully as his. The paintings were grouped by subject matter.
The first paintings were Bacchus and a young man being bitten by a lizard—the model in both of these being Caravaggio himself. The fruit and roses in these paintings look real enough to pick up. It is hard to believe he did no drawings—I suspect that he destroyed any drawings he did; he was trying hard to sell his work and sought something unique from all the other painters at the time.
The second group is card-sharks and fortune tellers. These paintings all tell a story with cards being held behind the back and someone else with their hands in the pockets of the card-shark or the fortune teller. Sumptuous velvet cloaks and hats and feathers and brocade gowns are beautifully painted along with ripped doublets and gloves with holes in them. These paintings were fun and full of surprises, a sharp contrast to those of Judith and the Holofernes or David and Goliath. These paintings had heads in baskets—rather gruesome.
Several saints are depicted including St. Jerome translating the Bible into Latin, St. Christopher carrying the Christ child across a river, St. Sebastian and St. Irene recovering from his death squad archery event. While all of these episodes had been depicted by countless artists, Caravaggio picks a moment of intense emotion and focuses in on that emotion rather than a rendition of what might be considered a documentary approach.
Caravaggio’s last painting was that of St. Francis, painted on his way to the pope to ask pardon for someone he had killed. Mysteriously he died on the way—whether he was murdered himself, set upon by thieves, or committed suicide, or died of previous injuries is unknown.
This painting is my favorite in the group. St. Francis stares at an open Bible propped on a skull—a favorite still life inclusion—but he is really staring inside himself. I wonder if it was a self-portrait.
More Tomorrow–sorry no pictures today or tomorrow.