March 1, 2010
“When I was a teenager I was making very angsty detailed drawings on all sorts of wonderful satanic themes. I drew everyday, I loved it so much. Then I got really embarrassed of them, I hid them all under the bed at my mothers house. Now I have come full circle, I draw rotting corpses all day, I have never been happier.”
January 25, 2010
Famous (and notorious) while he lived, Caravaggio was forgotten almost immediately after his death, and it was only in the 20th century that his importance to the development of Western art was rediscovered. It can be seen directly or indirectly in the work of Rubens, Jusepe de Ribera, Bernini, and Rembrandt, and artists in the following generation heavily under his influence were called the “Caravaggisti” or “Caravagesques”, as well as Tenebrists or “Tenebrosi” (“shadowists”).
Caravaggio fled Milan for Rome in mid-1592 after “certain quarrels” and the wounding of a police officer. He arrived in Rome “naked and extremely needy … without fixed address and without provision … short of money.” Already evident was the intense realism or naturalism for which Caravaggio is now famous. He preferred to paint his subjects as the eye sees them, with all their natural flaws and defects instead of as idealised creations.
The Grooms’ Madonna, also known as Madonna dei palafrenieri, painted for a small altar in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, remained there for just two days, and was then taken off. A cardinal’s secretary wrote: “In this painting there are but vulgarity, sacrilege, impiousness and disgust…One would say it is a work made by a painter that can paint well, but of a dark spirit, and who has been for a lot of time far from God, from His adoration, and from any good thought…”
Caravaggio led a tumultuous life. He was notorious for brawling, even in a time and place when such behavior was commonplace, and the transcripts of his police records and trial proceedings fill several pages. On 29 May 1606, he killed, possibly unintentionally, a young man named Ranuccio Tomassoni. Previously his high-placed patrons had protected him from the consequences of his escapades, but this time they could do nothing. Caravaggio, outlawed, fled to Naples. There, outside the jurisdiction of the Roman authorities and protected by the Colonna family, the most famous painter in Rome became the most famous in Naples. His connections with the Colonnas led to a stream of important church commissions, including the The Seven Works of Mercy.
Most of Caravaggio’s religious subjects emphasize sadness, suffering and death. In 1609 he dealt with the triumph of life and in doing so created the most visionary picture of his career (The Raising of Lazarus). The old story that Caravaggio had a freshly-buried body exhumed for this painting is “probably apocryphal, but not beyond the bounds of possibility” (John Gash). Contemporary reports depict a man whose behaviour was becoming increasingly bizarre, sleeping fully armed and in his clothes, ripping up a painting at a slight word of criticism, mocking the local painters.
In Naples an attempt was made on his life, by persons unknown. At first it was reported in Rome that the “famous artist” Caravaggio was dead, but then it was learned that he was alive, but seriously disfigured in the face. He painted a Salome with the Head of John the Baptist (Madrid), showing his own head on a platter, and sent it to de Wignacourt as a plea for forgiveness.
In the summer of 1610 he took a boat northwards to receive the pardon, which seemed imminent thanks to his powerful Roman friends. With him were three last paintings, gifts for Cardinal Scipione. What happened next is the subject of much confusion and conjecture. The bare facts are that on 28 July an anonymous avviso (private newsletter) from Rome to the ducal court of Urbino reported that Caravaggio was dead. Three days later another avviso said that he had died of fever. These were the earliest, brief accounts of his death, which later underwent much elaboration. No body was found.[29
April 28, 2009
Memento mori is a Latin phrase meaning “Be mindful of death” and may be translated as “Remember that you are mortal,” or “Remember you will die.” It names a genre of artistic creations that vary widely from one another, but which all share the same purpose, which is to remind people of their own mortality, and therefore the value life.