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Caravaggio, Biography of the Shadow Painter
Caravaggio, was an extremely popular painter during the Baroque movement. He developed a highly original clear variant, the ‘tenebrismo’. Tenebismo used extreme contrasts of light and dark. His influence on the course of Western art has been immense and has not been limited only to the field of painting.
Caravaggio’s work undoubtedly, shaped that of many later artists, from Rembrandt in Holland and Diego Velázquez in Spain to Théodore Géricult in France in France. The dramatic sense of the staging and the innovative chiaroscuro of him have also directly inspired many outstanding cinema figures, such as Pier Paolo Pasolini and Martin Scorsese.
Childhood and early life
Caravaggio, who would be one of the most famous Italian painters, was baptized as Michelangelo Merisi. He was born on September 29, 1571. The birth took place very close to Milan, Italy. Probably in the small city of Caravaggio in the Diocese of Cremona, of which he would later take the name. The time he was born was violent and sometimes unstable. His birth occurred just a week before the battle of Lepanto. This was a bloody conflict in which the Turkish invaders were expelled by the Santa League, a coalition of Christianity.
The artist’s early life was divided between his hometown of Caravaggio and the populous city of Milan, where his father had a workshop. The artist’s family had connections with the local nobility, by Caravaggio’s mother. His maternal grandfather, Giovan Giacomo Aratorai, was a collector of Earth Revenue in Name Francesco Sforza I. The maternal aunt of Caravaggio, Margarita, was a nurse from the children of Francesco Sforza I and his wife, Costanza Colonna, Marquesa de Caravaggio. Sforza and Colonna were among the most powerful and influential dynasties of Italy.
Caravaggio’s connections would be vital for him in his adult life. Costanza Colonna would be a constant refuge and support during its most problematic years. In the summer of 1576, when the future artist was just 5 years old, Milan was beaten by a bubonic plague outbreak. Caravaggio’s father dies due to the plague. At the age of 13, in 1584, his mother died. Apparently after his death the young man became an apprentice of the painter Simone Peterzano. Shortly after he leaves his homeland to never return.
The precise circumstances that surrounded his departure from Milan are still clear. However, marginal notes in a handwritten copy of Giulio Mancini’s story about Caravaggio’s life suggest that he was involved in some kind of violent incident related to the murder of a policeman. So it seems that the artist began his career as he would end it: as a man in trouble with the law.
Beginning of his career
At the end of the 1580s, Caravaggio traveled to Rome, where he worked with varied painters. He promoted the style of realism over ‘predominant mannerism’ of the time. During the 1590s, the artist made many paintings that had issues related to everyday life. These paintings were not in tune with the spiritual issues that prevailed during that time. His paintings during that period include ‘Buenaventura’, ‘Letters players’, ‘Boy with fruit basket’, ‘Sick Bacchus’ and ‘Young concert’.
Finally, he decided to work independently. He created many paintings and even got buyers for those artistic pieces. A merchant who bought his paintings presented his work to Cardinal Francesco del Monte, who liked his paintings to such an extent that he gave Caravaggio refuge and gave a stipend right. A milestone in this painter’s career was when he was chosen to decorate ‘Capilla Readelli’ in 1597. The paintings he made for the chapel led him to the controversy and at the same time he gained popularity. He made realistic images of the San Mateo life cycle that were completed during the period 1598-1601. He is attributed to having made a change from the spiritual perspective of painting and managing to impose a more realistic approach to painting.
Because his biblical scenes were populated with the faces of prostitutes, beggars and thieves that he had found in the streets of Rome, they created a lot of chaos between the public and the church authorities. His realistic portraits of San Mateo were considered a deviation of the spiritual and religious theme. Being a young orphan, Caravaggio grew up in the streets and fellowship, according to one of his biographers, with a group of painters and swordsmen who lived with the slogan "without hope, without fear".
Personal life and resurrection
Throughout his life, he was arrested numerous occasions. As far as records show that Caravaggio never married and had no children. His lack of registered couples, along with their many sensual portraits of young men (along with the lack of erotic female characters in their work) has led to a debate around their sexuality and there have been countless homerotic readings of his work of his work.
This painter is known for having had a stormy genius and, apparently, being promiscuous and quarrelsome. Finally in 1606, after beating in duel, he was accused of having killed a Roman attorney named Ranuccio Tomassoni. He was convicted, in the absence, of murder and was subject to death penalty. Shortly after, to escape the punishment, he left Rome and traveled through Italy. Even while he fled, he continued to produce works of art. After a conflict with a brother of the order of San Juan in 1608, Caravaggio goes to jail. The place of confinement was a cell excavated in the rock in the castle of Sant’Angelo from where it was considered impossible to escape.
However, with the help of an accomplice, Caravaggio escaped, evading the castle guard, climbing the walls and going down a precipitate of 61 meters to a boat that expected it. One of Caravaggio’s most shocking paintings is ‘resurrection’. In it the painter revealed to a less holy and more disheveled Jesus Christ who escaped from his tomb in the middle of the night. This scene was undoubtedly inspired by events of Caravaggio’s own life. The artist was always fleeing and in constant fear of his life, he slept with clothes on and with a dagger by his side.
The hope of an pardon: an assured death
In 1610, he decided to travel back to Rome in the hope that he could finally negotiate an pardon. Scipiona Borghese, the Pope’s nephew, was in charge of the papal justice system and was an enthusiastic collector of Caravaggio’s work. The artist traveled by sea, loaded with several paintings that he hoped to offer Borghese in exchange for fixing in his request.
For reasons that remain without clarifying Caravaggio was arrested and imprisoned in the port of Palo. A few hours after, the artist left prison and addressed Porto Ercole, the final destination of the boat, in order to recover his beautiful paintings. But the effort, the heat of the summer and the unfortunate state of health were against him.
He arrived in Porto Ercole, but died shortly after arriving there, probably on July 18 or 19, at the age of 38. He was buried in a grave without marks. Although Caravaggio was rejected after his death, over time he became recognized as one of the founding parents of modern painting. His work had a great influence on many later teachers. In Rome, in 2010, an exhibition of his work that marked the 400th anniversary of his death attracted more than 580,000 visitors.
Caravaggio’s populist representations of religious figures were innovative, showing biblical characters not idealized by adding age and poverty signs and the use of contemporary clothing.
This served to humanize the divine, making them more accessible to the average spectator. When doing this, Caravaggio’s work represented a type of spiritual populism. The barefoot and dirty feet of the figures of Caravaggio linked the works of the artist with teachings of the Church that emphasized the poverty of Christ and were also consistent with the calls to a simplicity in religious art after the Council of Trent (1545-1563).
Despite this alignment with the current dogma, these representations attracted some of Caravaggio’s toughest criticisms. While the chiaroscuro technique was not introduced by Caravaggio, he was the first painter who incorporated the technique as a dominant stylistic element, obscuring the shadows and using clearly defined light rays to highlight the narrative of the image. The style became more and more frequent in his later work and later became the brand in his most mature works.