Caravaggio (1572-1610) (Michelangelo Merisi)

"Caravaggio (1572-1610) (Michelangelo Merisi)" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Wednesday 27th April 2011

Michelangelo Merisi, named Caravaggio, Italian painter, was born in Caravaggio in 1571 and died in Porto Ercole in 1610. His father was an architect, and in 1584-88 he studied in Milan in the workshop of painter Simone Peterzano. In 1592-93 he went to Rome, and in the first years of Roman sojourn he depicted flowers and fruit in the workshop of C.d'Arpino: a number of still-natures in museums of Rome, Hartford, Connecticut, Wadsworth Atheneum. He made friendship with the painters P.Orsi, M.Minniti and A.Gramatica.

His first powerful protector was cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte, who housed the young artist in his own palace and entrusted him decoration of an alchemy laboratory (Casino Ludovisi). For cardinal were also created the following works: Concert (New York, Metropolitan Mus.), A boy with the fruit chest (Rome, Gall.Borghese), Card players (1595, Rome, Coll.Sciarra), Buona ventura (1595-96, Rome, Mus.Capitolini), Lute player (1597, St.Petersburg, Hermitage), St Catherine of Alessandria (1598, Lugano, Coll.Thyssen), Medusa and Bacchus (pictured) (Florence, Uffizi), and Basket with fruit (pictured above) (1599-1600, Milan, Pin.Ambrosiana).
caravaggio-bacchus caravaggio-cena
Cardinal Del Monte presented Caravaggio to the other important Roman families, for which he executed some works: the Giustiniani family (Portrait of a woman (1598) and Victorious Love (Museum of Berlin)), the Barberini family (Sacrifice of Issac, Florence, Uffizi), the Borghese family (S.Gerolamo, David with the head of Goliath (pictured below) (Rome, Gall.Borghese)), the Mattei and the Patrizi families (Dinner in Emmaus, (pictured below) London, Nat.Gallery).

By the wish of the same cardinal he decorated the Cappella Contarelli (Chiesa di S.Luigi dei Francesi, Rome, 1599-1602). In 1600-1601 the paintings for the Cappella Cerasi (Chiesa di S.Maria del Popolo, Rome) were created.

They were followed by Deposition (1603, Rome, Vatican Pinacoteca), Madonna del serpe (Rome, Gall.Borghese), Madonna of pilgrims (1604, Rome, Chiesa di S.Agostino), Dinner in Emmaus (Milan, Brera), The death of Virgin (pictured) (depicted for the Roman Chiesa di S.Maria della Scala, but refused by clergy, 1605, Paris, Louvre), and Magdalene (Rome, Gall.Doria Pamphili).
caravaggio-david caravaggio death of virgin caravaggio fruit chest
In the beginning of the 17th century the biographical news about Caravaggio became much more precise:
- 1600 he became defendant for the strokes;
- 1601 he wounded with the sword an officer of the Castel S.Angelo;
- 1603 defendant again for the defamation;
- 1604 a riot with a waiter of the tavern of Moro and arrest for throwing of stones;
- 1605 other disorders and arrests;
- 1606 (May 29) in a duel four x four, caused by a discussion occurred during a game with the rackets, Caravaggio killed his game rival, a certain Ranuccio Tommasoni.

After it he run away from Rome, and found protection of the Colonna family. In 1607 the artist settled in Naples for nearly a year executing numerous paintings: Seven works of the Mercy (Church of Pio Monte della Misericordia), Madonna of Rosary, David (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Mus.), and etc.

In 1608 he went on Malta: San Gerolamo, Beheading of St John the Baptist (La Valletta, Cathedral); Sleeping Love (Florence, Uffizi), but left the island very soon due to a quarrel, for which he was persecuted by the Knights of the Order of Malta.

He first landed in Siracusa: Burial of St Lucia (Church of S.Lucia), then he went to Messina (Adoration of shepherds, Ressurection of Lazzaro (1609, National Museum)), Palermo (Nativity (Oratory of St Laurence)), and finally to Naples in October of 1609. Here he was recognized by the killers hired by the Knights and seriously wounded (but thought to be dead). Some time later he received the news that the pope had forgiven the Roman murder, and Caravaggio, slightly recovered from the wounds, joined the Porto Ercole by sea. Immediately after landing he was arrested by mistake, set free after two days, desperate for loss of his boat in which were all his possessions, stroke with the fever, Caravaggio died on the beach on July 18, 1610.

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