** Italian artists illustrating boys fashions : Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio








Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italy, 1571-1610)

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Figure 1.--This is Caravaggio's 'Pilgrims Madonna' painted in the dark style of his last years, about 1605. It is a characteristically realistic painting with exagerated chiaroscuro. Notice the realism down to the dirty feat of the pilgrim. The painting is in the church of St. Augustine, Rome.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) was one of the most important painters of his time. Although seen as the bad boy of late Italian Renaissabce art, both because of his ababndinment of established iconography (seen as indecorum) and his stormy personal life, incluing carousing bars and street fighting. This would eventually cost him his life. He was born in 1571, althugh some recent scholaship suggests 1573. he was apprenticed for 4 years to Simone Peterzano a Bergamasque artist who insisted that he had been a pupil of Titian (1584). After his apprenticeship he seems to have gone to Rome, although vurtually no information is available on this period of his life. He eventually appears working for Cavaliere d'Arpino. His first works were uncontroversial still-life subjects. He also painted small rather dramatized self-portraits showing a northern, perhaps Venetian style. From an early point his work exhibited strong chiaroscuro and detailed if not shocking realism. Cardinal del Monte employed him to paint genre scenes (1590s). And mixed in with religious works or paintings illustrating the darker side of his life, including gambling. The Church was still the source of major commissions conering prestige on an artist. And presumably through the cardinal he obtained a commission to decorate a chapel in S. Luigi dei Francesi (the French church in Rome) with three scenes from the life of St. Matthew. This his first public work was finished only after many difficulties, but established his name with a Church deeply emersed in the Counter Reformation. One important work was rejected. Ignoring estabkished iconographic conventions was a problem, sometimes expressed as indecorum by some in the Church. The power of his work, however, despite the criticism, continued to attrach important Church commissions. Difficulties with Church and civil authorities continued throughout his life. His relatively early death limited the numner of his works. Several attributions to him are controversial.

Overview

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) was one of the most important painters of his time. Few artists can match the power of Caravaggio's work. Although seen as the bad boy of late Italian Renaissance art, both because of his ababndinment of established iconography (seen as indecorum) and his stormy personal life, incluing carousing bars and street fighting. This would eventually cost him his life.

Parents


Childhhod

Caravaggio was born in 1571, althugh some recent scholaship suggests 1573.

Apprentuce

he was apprenticed for 4 years to Simone Peterzano a Bergamasque artist in Milan (1584). He insisted that he had been a pupil of Titian. Given his future wild behavior, we wonder what kind of pupil he was. But as he was Peterzano 4 years, he must have behaved himself as a boy.

Career in Rome

After his apprenticeship we have virtually no information on is available on this period of his life after he finished his apprecticeship as an older teenagers. He eventually appears in Rome. Rome was an exciting place for young artists at the time Caravaggio arrived (1590s). Many large new churches with cavernous interiors abs as well as plazzas were being built or planned. Art work wa needed to deforate them. This created opportunities and prestigious commissions. Carvaggio began working for Cavaliere d'Arpino. His first works were uncontroversial still-life subjects. He also painted small rather dramatized self-portraits showing a northern, perhaps Venetian style. From an early point his work exhibited strong chiaroscuro and detailed if not shocking realism. Cardinal del Monte employed him to paint genre scenes (1590s). And mixed in with religious works or paintings illustrating the darker side of his life, including gambling. The Church was still the source of major commissions conering prestige on an artist. And presumably through the cardinal he obtained a commission to decorate a chapel in St. Luigi dei Francesi (the French church in Rome) with three scenes from the life of St. Matthew. This his first public work was finished only after many difficulties, but established his name with a Church deeply emersed in the Counter Reformation and in search of a powerful artistic statement.

The Reformation and Art

Art had a role in launchingh the Reformation as well as the subsequent struggle betweem Prototestant and Catholic Europe. It was the huge costs of building St. Peter's Basilica and other needs for money fueled by the eneed for artistic embelishment that had led to endukgences and other practuices that so offended Luther. Luther nailed his 95 Thesis on the Church door. This set off the Reformation. Virtually every aspect of European life was affected by the Reformation, including culture. The Protestant Reformation began a new artistic tradition reflecting Protestant theology. It diverged from the humanist art emerging in southern Europe during the High .. Renaissance. The Pritestant style was more plain, less elaborate. The quantity of religious art dramatically declined in Protestant countries. Protestant churches had neither the wealth or desire to finance art klike the Renissance Catholic Church. Art did not, however, decline in the Protestant north. The economic success in the north generated huge amounts of art. Protestant artists dud, however, diversify into secular forms of art like history, landscape, genre, portrait, and still life painting. Genre scenes depicting the ordinary life of private individuals were a staple of Prortestant art. The Catholic Church's response was the Counter Reformation this was fought on many fronts, including military. The Counter Refirmation included institutional reforms as well as massive assault on both Protestantism and Protestants themselves. The Church strove to not only to disprove Protestant theology, but to destroy Protestantism. The Council of Trent (1545-63) was the 19th ecumenic council which essentially launched the Counter Reformation. One of the fronts opened by the Counter Reformation was artistic. The Church now attempted to butress the correctness of its teachings with magnificent art. The reigning conventions and Mannerist approach did not seem to rise to the demands of the age. The art of the Catholic Counter-Reformation both reacted against and responded to the Protestant critique of Catholic art. The emerging art of the Counter Reformation was a more stringent style. Some Church men saw in Carvaggio the power and style that was needed for the new Catholic art.

Style

Caravaggio's developed a style that was as novel as it was powerful. He was a careful observer and redered realistic depictions of the human state. He combined an austere, even radical naturalism with an often dramatic, even theatrical flair. Is trade mark touch was exagerated chiaroscuro. This approach be canme known in the art world as Tenebrism, meaning the transition from light to dark with little or no intermediate halftones. Caravaggio thrust this new approach onto the Roan art scene with his first public commissions--'the Martyrdom of Saint Matthew' and 'Calling of Saint Matthew'. While some churchmen objected to aspects of Caravaggio's art, from this point on he had all the patrons he could handle, both private commissions and Church commissions. The undeniable power of his work, however, despite the criticism, continued to attract important Church commissions. His last works erre painted in Malta and Sicily where he found temprary relief. They are dark, both in color and depiction. Theimmediacy and directness of his iconography only accentuate the simplicity and poignancy of his work. The result is an inspired intensity and visual drama. The technoque was nothing short of revolutionary and brought both admiration and controversy:

Important Works

Caravaggio relatively early death limited the number of his works. Several attributions to him are controversial. Caravaggios best known works are religious and genre paintings. Thwre were also some portraits. Many of te religious wiorkls sparked cotroversy and were drawn into the Counter Reformation. They were deeply pious images like the 'Pilgrims Madonna' here (figure 1). Many of his reigious paintings depicted violence of the threat of violence like the 'Sacrifice of Issac'. He painted a second more terrifying rendering. One of his last paintings was the horrifying 'David wuth the Gead of Goliath (1609-10). There were also genre works showuing the seamier suide iof life like gambling. And a notable Cupid painting showing Cupid (meaning lust) prevailing over all human endeavors: war, music, science, government (16901-02).

Criticism

One important work was rejected. Ignoring established iconographic conventions was a problem, sometimes expressed as indecorum by some in the Church. He continued the focus on religious thems, in part becaise the Church was still the major patron of the arts in Italy. He commonly painted biblical characters as humble people of the time. Perhaps the 'Palfreniers' Madonna' was the most important commision Caravaggio received (1605). The painting was to be placed in a chapel of St. Peter Basilic. The painting was to depict Mary and the Child defeating evil. St. Anna (Mary's mother) was to be added she was the patron of the Pontifical Palfreniers. Caravaggio painted St. Anna and Mary as humble Roman women, without any element of the traditional iconografy. Jesus was painted a liitle older than was common for a Madona painting and very realistically. Because of the realism and the lack of the expected iconografy, the painting was refused. Some churchmen complained of indecorum. As with several of his works, there were radical repaintings.

Desolute Life

Difficulties with Church were only a part of his problems. He had even more problems with civil authorities. He did not handke his great success well. Problems continued throughout his life. The pope because of his carousing issued a death warrant for murder. He was forced from Rome and lived and painted in Naples, Malta, and Sicily, getting into trouble in each place where he moved. He continued painting notabkle wirks, but his provare life spiraled down hill.

Baroque Era

Carvaggio's paintings had a great influence on the developing Baroque school which followed the Renaissance.







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Created: 8:36 PM 7/11/2013
Last updated: 8:36 PM 7/11/2013