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ART 4 2-DAY 28 September
Born on 28 September 1823: Alexandre
Cabanel, French painter who died on 23 January 1889.
The winner of the Prix de Rome in 1845, he ranked with Bouguereau as one of the most successful and influential academic painters of the period and one of the sternest opponents of the Impressionists. The Birth of Venus is his best-known work and typical of the slick and titillating (but supposedly chaste) nudes at which he excelled. It was the hit of the official Salon of 1863, the year of the Salon des Refusés, and was bought by the emperor Napoléon III, who gave Cabanel several prestigious commissions.
French painter and teacher. His skill in drawing was apparently evident by the age of 11. His father could not afford his training, but in 1839 his département gave him a grant to go to Paris. This enabled him to register at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts the following October as a student of François-Édouard Picot. At his first Salon in 1843 he presented Agony in the Garden and won second place in the Prix de Rome competition (after Léon Bénouville, also a student of Picot) in 1845 with Christ at the Praetorium . Both Cabanel and Bénouville were able to go to Rome, as there was a vacancy from the previous year. Cabanel’s Death of Moses, an academic composition, painted to comply with the regulations of the Ecole de Rome, was exhibited at the Salon of 1852. The pictures he painted for Alfred Bruyas, his chief patron at this time (and, like Cabanel, a native of Montpellier), showed more clearly the direction his art had taken during his stay in Italy. Albaydé, Angel of the Evening, Chiarruccia and Velleda were the first of many mysterious or tragic heroines painted by Cabanel and show his taste for the elegiac types and suave finish of the Florentine Mannerists.
On Cabanel’s return to Paris, the architect Jean-Baptiste Cicéron Lesueur [1794-1883] commissioned him to decorate 12 pendentives in the Salon des Caryatides in the Hôtel de Ville (destroyed in 1871). Several major decorative commissions followed, which included work on the Hôtel Pereire, the Hôtel Say and the Louvre. Much has been destroyed, but the ceiling in the Cabinet des Dessins in the Louvre, The Triumph of Flora, which combines the hard contours and careful finish of Ingres’s school with a composition and color that recalls the ceilings of the French Rococo, is probably typical of Cabanel’s talent for achieving sumptuous effects.
In 1855 Cabanel exhibited Christian Martyr, Glorification of St Louis and Autumn Evening, establishing his academic and official credentials. In 1855 he received the Légion d’honneur and in 1863 he was elected to the Institut and nominated professor (along with Jean-Léon Gérôme and Isidore-Alexandre-Augustin Pils) at the reorganized Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He won the Grande Médaille d’Honneur at the Salons of 1865, 1867 and 1878. His dark-eyed heroines, thinly painted, usually in muted colors, and immaculately drawn, were popular with collectors on both sides of the Atlantic; likewise his mythological paintings, which were a by-product of his decorative works. Nymph Abducted by a Faun (1860) is a solid, decorative group in the manner of Charles Coypel or François Lemoyne. He exhibited the Birth of Venus (1862) in 1863 to widespread acclaim. It is composed like an overdoor by Boucher, although it has been suggested that it was influenced by Ingres’s Odalisque and her Slave (1839). Both paintings were acquired by Napoléon III. In 1867 he painted a huge Paradise Lost for Ludwig II, the King of Bavaria, and in 1868 Ruth for the Empress Eugénie. The full-length portrait of the Emperor that Cabanel painted for the Tuileries in 1865 was liked by critics less than Hippolyte Flandrin’s dreamy portrait exhibited in 1863 (1860), but it was much more popular at court. Cabanel’s portraits were already in demand, and he rivalled Edouard Dubufe and Franz Xavier Winterhalter as portrait painter to the Napoleonic aristocracy. Cabanel was also a successful teacher. His students (like those of his master, Picot) often won the Prix de Rome; among the best known are Jules Bastien-Lepage, Edouard Debat-Ponsan, Edouard Théophile Blanchard [1844-1879], Henri Gervex and Lodewijk Royer. He was elected regularly to the Salon jury, and his students could be counted by the hundred at the Salons. Through them, Cabanel did more than any other artist of his generation to form the character of 'belle époque' French painting. Cabanel’s pictures were always drawn and painted with a high degree of academic virtuosity, combined with an undercurrent of strong feeling, as in the Death of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta (1870). This made him popular in his lifetime, but it was the wrong combination for the tastes of later generations. After his death his reputation collapsed.
Mrs. Collis Huntington (1882, 216x128cm; 2/3 size 5760x3456pix, 1099kb — or see it 1/3 size 2880x1728pix, 638kb _ or the recommended 1/6 size 1440x864pix, 163kb _ or 1/12 size 720x432pix, 46kb)
The Birth of Venus (1863, 132x229cm) _ This painting was exhibited in 1863 and was bought by the Emperor Napoléon III.
The Death of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta (1870)
Fallen Angel _ In Christianity, the angels of Hell, or dark angels, or devils, or fallen angels, are the evil counterpart of the heavenly host. The chief of them, Satan (or Lucifer), was cast out of heaven for leading a revolt. They are often viewed as the initiators of evil temptations. Famous literary treatments of angels are those of John Milton's Paradise Lost and Dante's Divine Comedy.
Ophelia (1883, 77x117cm) Cleopatra trying out poisons on her lovers (1887).
Died on 28 September 1899: Giovanni
Segantini, Italian Art
Nouveau painter and draftsman born on 15 January 1858. An exponent of
divisionism, he was the only Italian painter of the late 19th century to
have enjoyed an unbroken international reputation, especially in Germany
Segantini was orphaned when he was only eight years old and spent the rest of his childhood with relatives in Milan. As a young man Segantini lived on the proceedings of his decorative work while taking evening class in ornamental and decorative painting. About 1880 he was discovered by the art dealer Vittore Grubicy de Dragon who sponsored his participation in local and international exhibitions. Segantini became particularly well known in Germany and in 1896 had a one-man show in Munich. He was much admired by artists such as Munch, Van Gogh and Ensor. The famous abstract artist Kandinsky characterised Segantini as one of the forerunners of spirituality in art. Segantini's early work comprised of idyllic rural scenes painted outdoors. Later on Segantini was encouraged by Vittore Grubicy to paint with the Divisionist technique. The primary concern of this technique was the question of how the eyes saw light; the separation, juxtaposition and overlaying of colors on the canvas was aimed to reproduce the luminous vibrations of rays which make up light. Like other painters, Segantini used Divisionism to suggest certain mystical qualities and to intensify a spectator's emotional response by enhancing the luminous quality of the scene.
The art critic and dealer Vittore Grubicy worked tirelessly to convince both the public and those in charge of government cultural policy that the artists practicing the Divisionist technique were showing a new direction for art. Divisionism emerged at a time when Italian politics was characterised by an anxiety to promote a new national consciousness. The President of Italy Pasquale Villari, elected in 1896, stressed the importance of a national pride and warned against uncontrolled emigration. Yet the Divisionist technique was met with a degree of scepticism because it contradicted the traditional notions of the representation of the natural world. At the most extreme the paintings produced were considered the product of a diseased retina. The artists who painted in a Divisionist style were viewed as suffering from hysteria as well as diseases of the eye.
Landscape with Horses and Peasant Boy
Still Life with Vegetables (1886)
Springtime in the Alps (1897)
— Punishment of Lust (1891, 99x173cm; 718x1270pix, 88kb — ZOOM to 1593x2835pix, 3437kb) _ This painting is based on a Buddhist poem about women who reject the duties of motherhood, and is one of a series of disturbing Segantini paintings on this theme. The floating figures represent the souls of women who have had abortions, and are being forced to travel through an icy valley as punishment. Cold temperature suggests the opposite of passion, usually associated with heat. The snowy landscape is based on the Swiss Alps, where Segantini spent much of his life. — Artists have often imagined dramatic, violent weather as a fitting punishment for wrong doing. But here, the Italian artist Giovanni Segantini creates a punitive, purging weather effect that's very unexpected. Inspired by a Buddhist poem describing the passage of dead souls on their way to Nirvana, this image depicts the floating spirits of women who have been guilty of lust. In direct contrast to the heat of their passions during life, the punishment of these spirits is a long passage through a mountain landscape covered with snow, where the weather is still, silent and extremely cold. Segantini's attitude to women was common among men, and even women in his time, who firmly believed that women should stay at home and look after the children. But the profoundly unsettling imagery of this picture, set in the Swiss Alps where Segantini lived, was also informed by a private tragedy. The artist had lost his own mother when he was seven and he later found himself particularly affected and disturbed by the idea of women who abandon their children. Possibly unable to reconcile himself to his own loss, he made a number of works where bad mothers and uncaring women are tormented. In this picture a barren tree has caught the long flowing hair of one of the women in its branches. It's as if even the landscape itself cannot bear to see these unnatural creatures pass without extracting some revenge. — The Punishment of Lust belongs to a series of paintings produced between 1891 and 1896 on the theme of cattive madri. Segantini was inspired by Nirvana, a poem written by the 12th century monk Luigi Illica in imitation of the Indian text Panghiavahli. Illica's poem contained the phrase 'la Mala Madre' (reminiscent of 'la mala femmina' or prostitute) to describe those women who refused the responsibilities of motherhood. The souls of the women are depicted floating against a snowy background based on the Swiss Alps where Segantini spent much of his life. The grandeur and spirituality of the Alps must have been a constant inspiration to Segantini whose last words before he died are recorded to have been: "I want to see my mountains". In the painting the spirits of the women are punished for having committed the sin of abortion consciously or by neglect. Segantini had lost his mother when he was seven years old and was probably passionate to represent the trauma of the mother for the loss of her child. Segantini believed that a woman's role in life was motherhood and that a woman who objects to this role was mean, bad or selfish. His beliefs drew from both religious and metaphysical ideas: the sanctity and motherhood of the Virgin Mary combined with the fertility of nature. The tree in this series of paintings is a religious symbol of the tree of life which, although bare and dead in the winter, will be reborn and blossom in the spring. Segantini came from a country shaped by catholicism. Although in his private life he never conformed to catholic doctrine, for example he refused to marry his partner and mother of his four children, his work was strongly influenced by religious ideas. What may have attracted Segantini to religion may have been the hope for a life after death. Indeed in another painting from the same series, L'Angelo della Vita (1894) the mother has the pose of the Madonna bending lovingly over the baby, while in the mountain landscape the snows have melted and the birch tree is bringing forth young shoots. The painting is connected with the Christian tradition of redemption. The poem Nirvana which inspired the painter also suggests the possibility of regeneration: the bad mother may eventually find her natural instincts blossoming again, just as an apparently dead wintry tree will bring forth leaves as the season moves towards spring. Despite the tragic theme of the painting the overall effect and feeling achieved by the thread-like brushstrokes of Segantini is very atmospheric and dreamy. The mysterious atmosphere set by the painting is in line with the painter's metaphysical views about the connection between human and natural life.
— The Plow (535x995pix, 327kb)
Born on 28 September 1920: Alan Davie,
Scottish painter and printmaker.
— He got trained as a painter at Edinburgh College of Art from 1938 to 1940, initially favoring poetic imagery and coming into contact with modernism at London exhibitions of works by Picasso (1945) and Paul Klee (1945). He explored a diverse range of activities, however, before returning to painting: from 1949 to 1953 he earned his living by making jewelry and in 1947 he worked as a jazz musician, an activity he continued in later life. He wrote poetry during the early 1940s.
From 1947 to 1949 Davie traveled extensively in Europe; in Italy he studied pre-Renaissance art and saw a wide range of modern art, including the Peggy Guggenheim collection in Venice, to which he later continued to have access. Among the works owned by Guggenheim were paintings of the early 1940s by Jackson Pollock, which led Davie to adopt mythic imagery and forceful painterly gestures. He also adopted from later Pollock a procedure of painting rapidly with his canvases on the floor. From this time his pictures concentrated on themes of organic generation and sinister ritual, fluctuating between turbulent paintwork, animate presences and more geometric forms, sometimes in the same work, as in Golden Seam (1952).
From 1953 to 1956 Davie taught in London at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, where he became interested in African and Pacific art. Encouraged by his critical and commercial success from the mid-1950s and by the large studio space made available to him during his Gregory Fellowship at Leeds University (1956–9), Davie increased his scale in works such as The Creation of Man, or Marriage Feast (1957, 213×366cm). With its teeming animal, human and pictographic forms, this triptych exemplifies Davie's search for a proliferation of painted signs and images, which bore more of an affinity to artists of the Cobra group such as Asger Jorn than to American Abstract Expressionism. Influenced by his reading of Eugene Herrigel's Zen in the Art of Archery (1953) in 1955, Davie became interested in Zen Buddhism and concluded that conscious decision-making was incompatible with a spiritual quest; as a result he rejected the emphasis on existential choice and immediate emotionalism central to Harold Rosenberg's definition of action painting.
As early as 1958 Davie emphasized the importance in his work of intuition, as expressed in the form of enigmatic signs. During the 1960s, both in paintings and in colored lithographs, he represented such images with increasing clarity at the expense of gestural handling. From 1967 to 1971 he worked intermittently on a Berlin school mural involving an angled wall; he later introduced more representations of room-like spaces with zigzagging walls into his paintings. In 1971 he made his first visit to the island of St. Lucia, where he began to spend half of each year and which brought Caribbean influences to bear on his suggestive imagery, as in Bird Gong No. 10, Opus 730 (1973). Taking on the role of a disinherited shaman, Davie created a synthesis of mythologies from a variety of cultures for a modern civilization devoid of its own village myths.
— untitled [Easter Eggs and Worms?] (1964 color lithograph 42x30cm; 2/3 size)
— untitled [Worms?] (1964 color lithograph, 42x30cm; 2/3 size)
— Birth of Venus 1955 Oil on board support: 1600 x 2438 mm _ The artist has written of this work, 'I must make it clear that the titles of my pictures are not meant to be taken literally but are in fact my own poetic interpretation of the work, thought up usually after the work is complete. The Birth of Venus has in its vague evocation a distinct suggestion of the primeval womb, birth place, cavern, source of fruitfulness and love - all ideas which did not suggest themselves to me when I was working. But later, the title suggested itself, as associations presented themselves to me - and more than a static image seemed to be there - truly an image of emergence, of becoming fruitful, of birth, the birth of Venus.' But don't expect anything like The Birth of Venus (665x1057pix, 150kb) by Botticelli, or The Birth of Venus (or whatever) (1636, 97x108cm; 311x400pix, 28kb) by Poussin [1594-1665], or The Birth of Venus (665x1057pix, 150kb) by Botticelli, or The Birth of Venus (665x1057pix, 150kb) by Botticelli, or The Birth of Venus (665x1057pix, 150kb) by Botticelli, or The Birth of Venus (665x1057pix, 150kb) by Botticelli, or The Birth of Venus (665x1057pix, 150kb) by Botticelli, or The Birth of Venus (665x1057pix, 150kb) by Botticelli, or The Birth of Venus (665x1057pix, 150kb) by Botticelli, or The Birth of Venus (665x1057pix, 150kb) by Botticelli, or The Birth of Venus (665x1057pix, 150kb) by Botticelli, or
— Entrance for a Red Temple No. 1 (1960, 213x173cm) _ In his early work Davie had accessed a higher level of consciousness through spontaneous or automatic painting. By the 1960s, as in this painting, he referred to this higher state by including emblems and signs associated with Zen Buddhism and magic. This picture went through countless transformations before arriving at its final state. These hidden layers can be seen throughout the picture, perhaps suggesting levels of consciousness. Davie has described the picture as ‘an immobile and timeless frontal object of meditation, or an evocative invitation to enter, like the entrance to a place of worship’.
Died on 28 September 1892: Stanislas~Victor~Édouard Lépine,
painter born on 03 October 1835.
— Originally self-taught, he became a student of Corot and an admirer of Johan Barthold Jongkind, who influenced him in his choice of ships as subject-matter. He also learnt from Jongkind not only how to paint ships accurately but also how to render the depth of the sky and the clarity of waves, as in Sailing Boats in Caen Harbour. He produced a number of nocturnes of the port of Caen, including Boats on the River, Moonlight and Port of Caen, Moonlight Effect (1859), the latter painting marking his début in 1859 at the Salon in Paris. He specialized in the depiction of the steep banks of the River Seine and the movement of the water, as in La Seine à Bercy (1872). He also executed views of Paris and was particularly successful in reproducing the atmosphere of the city, especially its overcast days with cloudy skies, as in Nuns and Schoolgirls Walking in the Tuileries Gardens, Paris (1883). He also rendered such picturesque scenes in Paris as the old streets of Montmartre where he lived (e.g. Rue Norvins at Montmartre, 1878). In 1874 in Paris he exhibited Banks of the Seine (1869) with the Société Anonyme des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs etc, the first public showing outside the Salon by the Impressionist painters. Although his work can be said to anticipate the Impressionists’ interest in light effects, his brushwork, as well as his depiction of light effects, is much more delicate and subtle than theirs.
La Seine au Confluent de la Marne, Paris (1882, 107x185cm)
Le Port de Caen (1859; 664x850pix, 151kb) — Bassin a Caen. Effet de lune (38x53cm)
Quais de la Seine, Pont-Marie (1868) — Bras de Seine du côté de Neuilly (1882, 42x55cm, 838x1111pix)
— Cour de Ferme en Normandie (1872; 40x36cm; 1081x956pix)
— 32 images at Webshots
Born on 28 September 1573: Michelangelo
Merisi Caravaggio, Italian Baroque
era painter who died on 18 July 1610. His students included Juan
Michelangelo Merisi, called later Caravaggio, was born in either Milan, or the town Caravaggio near Milan, the son of a ducal architect. His early training started in 1584 under Simone Peterzano, a little known pupil of Titian, and continued till 1588.
In 1592, Caravaggio went to Rome. His contact with Giuseppe Cesare d’Arpino (1568-1640), the most popular painter and art dealer in Rome at the turn of the century, brought him recognition. Through the art business Caravaggio met his first patron Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte, who not only held out the possibility of working independently, but also secured for him his first public commission: side paintings in the Contarelli Chapel, San Luigi dei Francesi. For Cardinal’s Casino dell’Aurora he painted Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto (1600).
From then on he was flooded by public commissions. Yet because of his violent temper he was constantly in trouble with the law. Since 1600, he is regularly mentioned in police records, is constantly under accusations of assault, libel and other crimes. In 1606, he became involved in murder and had to flee, finding refuge on the estates of Prince Marzio Colonna, where he painted Madonna of the Rosary (1607).
On his wanderings he paused in Naples, painting exclusively religious themes: Seven Works of Mercy (1607), The Flagellation of Christ (1607). Not only these, but almost all of Caravaggio’s religious subjects emphasize sadness, suffering, and death.
In Malta he was housed by the Knights of St. John and painted several portraits of the Grand Master, Alof de Wignacourt. The artistically fertile Maltese period brought him the title of a Knight of St. John of Malta in 1608, but was shortly interrupted by imprisonment for a passionate quarrel with a noble and a renewed flight.
Going through Syracuse and Messina, where some major late works came into being, The Raising of Lazarus (1609) Caravaggio went on to Palermo and from there again to Naples. Here the news of the Pope’s pardon reached him but, on arriving at Porto Escole by ship, he was again arrested, though later released. By then the ship had sailed, carrying away all his possessions. Struck down by a fever, he died without setting foot in Rome again.
Few artists in history have exercised as extraordinary an influence as this tempestuous and short-lived painter. Caravaggio was destined to turn a large part of European art away from the ideal viewpoint of the Renaissance to the concept that simple reality was of primary importance. He was one of the first to paint people as ordinary looking.
Caravaggio, byname of Michelangelo Merisi, Italian painter whose revolutionary technique of tenebrism, or dramatic, selective illumination of form out of deep shadow, became a hallmark of Baroque painting. Scorning the traditional idealized interpretation of religious subjects, he took his models from the streets and painted them realistically. His three paintings of St Matthew (1602) caused a sensation and were followed by such masterpieces as The Supper at Emmaus (1602) and Death of the Virgin (1606).
Caravaggio was the son of Fermo Merisi, steward and architect of the Marquis of Caravaggio. Orphaned at age 11, Caravaggio was apprenticed in the same year to the painter Simone Peterzano of Milan.
At some time between 1588 and 1592, Caravaggio went to Rome. He was already in possession of the fundamental technical skills of painting and had acquired, with characteristic eagerness, a thorough understanding of the approach of the Lombard and Venetian painters, who, opposed to idealized Florentine painting, had developed a style that was nearer to representing nature and events. Caravaggio arrived in Rome and settled into the cosmopolitan society of the Campo Marzio. This decaying neighbourhood of inns, eating houses, temporary shelter, and little picture shops in which Caravaggio came to live suited his circumstances and his temperament. He was virtually without means, and his inclinations were always toward anarchy and against tradition.
These first five years were an anguishing period of instability and humiliation. According to his biographers, Caravaggio was "needy and stripped of everything" and moved from one unsatisfactory employment to another, working as an assistant to painters of much smaller talent. He earned his living for the most part with hackwork and never stayed more than a few months at any studio. Finally, probably in 1595, he decided to set out on his own and began to sell his pictures through a dealer, a certain Maestro Valentino, who brought Caravaggio's work to the attention of Cardinal Francesco del Monte, a prelate of great influence in the papal court. Caravaggio soon came under the protection of Del Monte and was invited to receive board, lodging, and a pension in the house of the cardinal.
Despite spiritual and material deprivations, Caravaggio had painted up to
the beginning of Del Monte's patronage about 40 works. The subjects of this
period are mostly adolescent boys, as in Boy
with a Fruit Basket (1593),
The Young Bacchus (1593), and The
Music Party. These early pictures reveal a fresh, direct, and empirical
approach; they were apparently painted directly from life and show almost
no trace of the academic Mannerism
then prevailing in Rome. The felicitous tone and confident craftsmanship
of these early works stand in sharp contrast to the daily quality of Caravaggio's
disorderly and dissipated life. In Basket
of Fruit (1596) the fruits, painted with brilliance and vivid realism,
are handsomely disposed in a straw basket and form a striking composition
in their visual apposition.
With these works realism won its battle with Mannerism, but it is in the cycle of the life of St Matthew in the Contarelli Chapel that Caravaggio's realistic naturalism first fully appears. Probably through the agency of Del Monte, Caravaggio obtained, in 1597, the commission for the decoration of the Contarelli Chapel in the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome. This commission established him, at the age of 24, as a pictor celeberrimus, a "renowned painter," with important protectors and clients. The task was an imposing one. The scheme called for three large paintings of scenes from the saint's life: St Matthew and the Angel, The Calling of St Matthew, and The Martyrdom of St Matthew. The execution (1598-1601) of all three, in which Caravaggio substituted a dramatic contemporary realism for the traditional pictorial formulas used in depicting saints, provoked public astonishment. Perhaps Caravaggio was waiting for this test, on public view at last, to reveal the whole range of his diversity. His novelty in these works not only involves the surface appearance of structure and subject but also the sense of light and even of time. The first version of the canvas that was to go over the altar, St Matthew and the Angel, was so offensive to the canons of San Luigi dei Francesi, who had never seen such a representation of a saint, that it had to be redone. In this work the evangelist has the physical features of a plowman or a common labourer. His big feet seem to stick out of the picture, and his posture, legs crossed, is awkward almost to the point of vulgarity. The angel does not stand graciously by but forcefully pushes Matthew's hand over the page of a heavy book, as if he were guiding an illiterate. What the canons did not understand was that Caravaggio, in elevating this humble figure, was copying Christ, who had himself raised Matthew from the street.
The other two scenes of the St Matthew cycle are no less disconcerting in the realism of their drama. The Calling of St Matthew shows the moment at which two men and two worlds confront each other: Christ, in a burst of light, entering the room of the toll collector, and Matthew, intent on counting coins in the midst of a group of gaily dressed idlers with swords at their sides. In the glance between the two men, Matthew's world is dissolved. In The Martyrdom of St Matthew the event is captured just at the moment when the executioner is forcing his victim to the ground. The scene is a public street, and, as Matthew's acolyte flees in terror, passersby glance at the act with idle unconcern. The most intriguing aspect of these narratives is that they seem as if they were being performed in thick darkness when a sudden illumination revealed them and fixed them in memory at the instant of their most intense drama.
Caravaggio's three paintings for the Contarelli Chapel not only caused a sensation in Rome but also marked a radical change in his artistic preoccupation. Henceforth he would devote himself almost entirely to the painting of traditional religious themes, to which, however, he gave a whole new iconography and interpretation. He often chose subjects that are susceptible to a dramatic, violent, or macabre emphasis, and he proceeded to divest them of their idealized associations, taking his models from the streets. Caravaggio may have used a lantern hung to one side in his shuttered studio while painting from his models. The result in his paintings is a harsh, raking light that strikes across the composition, illuminating parts of it while plunging the rest into deep shadow. This dramatic illumination heightens the emotional tension, focuses the details, and isolates the figures, which are usually placed in the foreground of the picture in a deliberately casual grouping. This insistence on clarity and concentration, together with the firm and vigorous drawing of the figures, links Caravaggio's mature Roman works with the classical tradition of Italian painting during the Renaissance.
The decoration of the Contarelli Chapel was completed by 1602. Caravaggio, though not yet 30, overshadowed all his contemporaries. There was a swarm of orders for his pictures, private and ecclesiastical. The Crucifixion of St Peter (1601) and The Conversion of St Paul, The Deposition of Christ (1604), and The Death of the Virgin (1606) are among the monumental works he produced at this time. Some of these paintings, done at the high point of Caravaggio's artistic maturity, provoked violent reaction. The Madonna with Pilgrims, or Madonna di Loreto (1606), for the Church of San Agostino, was a scandal because of the "dirty feet and torn, filthy cap" of the two old people kneeling in the foreground. The Death of the Virgin was refused by the Carmelites because of the indignity of the Virgin's plebeian features, bared legs, and swollen belly. At the advice of Rubens, the picture was bought by the Duke of Mantua in April 1607 and displayed to the community of painters at Rome for one week before removal to Mantua.
men of learning, and enlightened prelates were fascinated by the robust
and bewildering art of Caravaggio, but the negative reaction of church officials
reflected the self-protective irritation of academic painters and the instinctive
resistance of the more conservative clergy and much of the populace. The
more brutal aspects of Caravaggio's paintings were condemned partly because
Caravaggio's common people bear no relation to the graceful suppliants popular
in much of Counter-Reformation art. They are plain working men, muscular,
stubborn, and tenacious.
Criticism did not cloud Caravaggio's success, however. His reputation and income increased, and he began to be envied. The despairing bohemian of the early Roman years had disappeared, but, although he moved in the society of cardinals and princes, the spirit was the same, still given to wrath and riot.
The details of the first Roman years are unknown, but after the time of the Contarelli project Caravaggio had many encounters with the law. In 1600 he was accused of blows by a fellow painter, and the following year he wounded a soldier. In 1603 he was imprisoned on the complaint of another painter and released only through the intercession of the French ambassador. In April 1604 he was accused of throwing a plate of artichokes in the face of a waiter, and in October he was arrested for throwing stones at the Roman Guards. In May 1605 he was seized for misuse of arms, and on29 July he had to flee Rome for a time because he had wounded a man in defense of his mistress. Within a year, on 29 May 1606, again in Rome, during a furious brawl over a disputed score in a game of tennis, Caravaggio killed one Ranuccio Tomassoni.
In terror of the consequences of his act, Caravaggio, himself wounded and feverish, fled the city and sought refuge on the nearby estate of a relative of the Marquis of Caravaggio. He then moved on to other places of hiding and eventually reached Naples, probably in early 1607. He remained at Naples for a time, painting a Madonna of the Rosary for the Flemish painter Louis Finson and one of his late masterpieces, The Seven Works of Mercy, for the Chapel of Monte della Misericordia. It is impossible to ignore the connection between the dark and urgent nature of this painting and what must have been his desperate state of mind. It is also the first indication of a shift in his painting style.
At the end of 1607 or the beginning of 1608, Caravaggio traveled to Malta, where he was received as a celebrated artist He worked hard, completing several works, the most important of which was The Beheading of St John the Baptist for the cathedral in Valletta. In this scene of martyrdom, shadow, which in earlier paintings stood thick about the figures, is here drawn back, and the infinite space that had been evoked by the huge empty areas of the earlier compositions is replaced by a high, overhanging wall. This high wall, which reappears in later works, can be linked to a consciousness in Caravaggio's mind of condemnation to a limited space, the space between the narrow boundaries of flight and prison. On 14 July 1608, Caravaggio was received into the Order of Malta as a "Knight of Justice"; soon afterward, however, either because word of his crime had reached Malta or because of new misdeeds, he was expelled from the order and imprisoned. He escaped, however.
Caravaggio took refuge in Sicily, landing at Syracuse in October 1608, restless and fearful of pursuit. Yet his fame accompanied him; at Syracuse he painted his late, tragic masterpiece, The Burial of St Lucy, for the Church of Santa Lucia. In early 1609 he fled to Messina, where he painted The Resurrection of Lazarus and The Adoration of the Shepherds, then moved on to Palermo, where he did the Adoration with St Francis and St Lawrence for the Oratorio di San Lorenzo. The works of Caravaggio's flight, painted under the most adverse of circumstances, show a subdued tone and a delicacy of emotion that is even more intense than the overt dramatics of his earlier paintings.
His desperate flight could be ended only with the pope's pardon, and Caravaggio may have known that there were intercessions on his behalf in Rome when he again moved north to Naples in October 1609. Bad luck pursued him, however; at the door of an inn he was attacked and wounded so badly that rumours reached Rome that the "celebrated painter" was dead. After a long convalescence he sailed in July 1610 from Naples to Rome, but he was arrested enroute when his boat made a stop at Palo. On his release, he discovered that the boat had already sailed, taking his belongings. Setting out to overtake the vessel, he arrived at Port'Ercole, a Spanish possession within the Papal States, and he died there a few days later, probably of pneumonia. A document granting him clemency arrived from Rome three days after his death.
The many painters who imitated Caravaggio's style soon became known as Caravaggisti. Caravaggio's influence in Rome itself was remarkable but short-lived, lasting only until the 1620s. His foremost followers elsewhere in Italy were Orazio Gentileschi, Artemisia Gentileschi, and the Spaniard José de Ribera. Outside Italy, the Dutch painters Hendrick Terbrugghen, Gerrit van Honthorst, and Dirck van Baburen made the city of Utrecht the foremost northern centre of Caravaggism. The single most important painter in the tradition was the Frenchman Georges de La Tour, though echoes of Caravaggio's style can also be found in the works of such giants as Rembrandt van Rijn and Diego Velázquez.
Boy Peeling a Fruit (1593, 75x64cm) _ This is probably a copy from a lost original. There are several other copies, but all of these copies are derived from an original by Caravaggio. In none of them does the boy peel a pear, as sources indicate, but another fruit, perhaps a nectarine; the same fruit lies on the table before the boy. There is a remarkable resemblance between the facial types of these copies and those of the angel in the Saint Francis and the boy on the left in The Musicians at the Metropolitan Museum, New York.
Boy with a Basket of Fruit (1593, 70x67cm) One of the sure signs of an early painting by Caravaggio is the patent influence of northern Italian art. The boy with a fruit basket has analogies with The Fruitseller (1580: detail) by the Lombard painter Vincenzo Campi, painted about 1580, but Caravaggio is not content to follow the traditions on which he draws. Instead of the young women favored by his predecessors, he has chosen a teenage boy; and he has brought his subject almost to the front of the picture plane, so that the boy seems to offer himself as well as the fruit to the spectator's gaze. There is a sign of uncertainty in the awkward way that the boy's long thick neck rises out of his shoulder blades, yet there is compensation in the poetic device which places his weary eyes partially in the shade. Once again Caravaggio has used the diagonal 'cellar' light which was to become a hallmark of his style. Against a near-blank ground, attention is focused on the right side of the boy's upper body, the classical drapery on his right arm and the marvellously realized fruit, displaying (detail) succulent peaches and bunches of grapes against a near-blank ground.
Boy Bitten by a Lizard (1594, 66x50cm) This picture is wrongly said by Mancini not to be one of Caravaggio's earliest pictures, and since he also states that the picture was sold for less than Caravaggio expected, it must have been painted as a speculative venture. One of the most effeminate of his boy models, with a rose in his hair, starts back in pain as his right-hand middle finger, which he has put into a cluster of fruit, is bitten by a lizard. The rose behind the ear, the cherries, the third finger and the lizard probably have sexual significance - the boy becomes aware, with a shock, of the pains of physical love. What was novel was not the theme so much as its dramatic treatment, evident in the boy's foreshortened right shoulder, the contrasting gestures of his hands and the leftward sloping light. What lingers most in the memory is found in the foreground: the gleaming glass carafe containing a single overblown rose in water, together with its reflections. _ detail _ To be able to paint light reflecting in glass is one of the hallmarks of a virtuoso still-life artist. Mystically-inclined interpreters see it as a suggestion of supernatural light. As his early biographers commented, Caravaggio's painting of drapery, skin and objects manage without reflected light. This distinguished him from the Mannerist painters of the preceding generation. And it makes it all the more interesting to observe how unusually he renders the round crystal-vase in this picture - he flattens it. In so doing, he inverts the lighting of the whole picture, by concentrating the light areas on the left and the dark ones on the right.
a minutely different Boy Bitten by a Lizard (1594, 66x52) _ almost identical to the previous one. Their equally high quality suggests that Caravaggio himself painted them both.
St. Francis in Ecstasy (1595, 92x128cm) This is one of the artist's first works. It has a perfectly Lombard air: the broad lines of the composition recall mannerist motives. But Caravaggio's characteristic approach to reality is already at work, and his brushstroke shows a magic that could be obtained only by a thorough analysis of Venetian painting. _ detail _ The angel comes from the same repertoire as the early pictures of boys. As Cupid, he is familiar from The Musicians. In the St Francis scene he forms part of an arrangement set against an almost black background, which may well have been painted direct from life and transmutes the spirit of pictures of boys into the sphere of sacred art.
The Musicians (1596, 92x118cm) _ The two figures seen frontally are undoubtably portraits, and this fact disorients those who would like to make a conventional reading of the scene and concentrate on the noble, classical character of the composition, organized around the traditional opposition between the figure of the lute player and the corresponding figure whom we see from behind. The face between these two is Caravaggio's; the figure on the left is taken from an earlier composition (Young Peeling a Pear) which we know only from copies.
The Fortune Teller (1596, 115x150cm) _ The youth abandons his reserve, leans over towards the gypsy-woman and looks into her smiling face, as if he idolized her, and as if the woman was enticing a very willing man. We cannot be absolutely sure this picture is an original Caravaggio. Its authenticity has recently been based on two arguments. The genre-scene has been painted over a praying female saint, perhaps the Virgin Mary, and the most likely painter is the Cavaliere d'Arpino. The painting also carries the same indication of provenance from Cardinal del Monte's Collection as the Cardsharps. The same subject-matter recurs in Narcissus. In the case of this not-undisputed picture, the smooth way in which the paint is applied suggests a Caravaggesque artist of some note.
a different The Fortune Teller (1597, 99x131cm) _ detail 1 _ detail 2
Cardsharps (1596, 90x112cm) _ The Cardsharps, lost for almost a century,
has been found and is now in Texas, and helps to fill in an important stage
in the development of Caravaggio's art. Behind a table that protrudes into
the spectator's space, a youthful innocent studies his cards, overlooked
by a sinister middle-aged man, whose fingers signal to another, younger
scoundrel to his right, who holds a five of hearts behind his back. To the
left-hand side of the canvas is the object of their conspiracy, a pile of
coins. This low-life scene links Caravaggio's discreet dramas to the genre
paintings favoured by his followers. It was to have many imitators - within
a few years of the painter's death an early variant had been painted by
the Franco-Roman Valentin de Boulogne - but few equals. Caravaggio was less
melodramatic than many of the artists known as the Caravaggisti who painted
in his style, and he suggests only enough of the interaction between the
three actors to imply the sequel.
The Lute Player #1 (1600, 100x126cm) _ Two pictures (this and the next) of almost the same dimensions depict a boy with soft facial features and unusually thick brown hair, pouting lips, a half-open mouth and a pensive expression beneath sharply-drawn broad eyebrows. His white shirt is open at the front, revealing the artist's intention to paint a nude. This figure has the same dimensions in both pictures, which suggests that Caravaggio traced one on to oil-paper. In this case only one picture was completed from a fresh study of a model.
A sort of ribbon woven into the figure's hair emphasizes its almost androgynous features. The same applies - in the New York version - to a broad yoke which divides his shirt under his chest like a woman's dress. This is undoubtedly why Bellori saw this as a female lute-player, although recently it has been suggested that the model was a castrato. Light falls from a high window above left, creating a narrow triangle of brightness in the upper right-hand corner. That said, the brightly illuminated figure stands out boldly against the shadowy background.
The strongly foreshortened lute with its bent key-board demonstrates Caravaggio's virtuoso handling of perspective. Tactile elements project towards the viewer more successfully than in the New York Concert. As in the Uffizi Bacchus, the artist places a broad table-top in front of the figure - in version #2 it is made of marble, and in version #1 covered with an oriental carpet.
The objects in the picture include an open book of music lying on another which bears the inscription "Bassus" in Gothic script, whilst the body of a violin serves to hold the book open at the right page. In both versions Caravaggio has painted the scores of older compositions clearly enough for us to read them. The music in question is the base voice-part of a popular collection, the "libro primo" of Jacques Arcadelt, which contains other compositions as well as works by this composer. Although the artist has cut off one row of notes, he has reproduced the initial notes so exactly that in version #2 we can recognize the Roman printer, Valerio Dorica, whereas in the version #1 we can see that the book was published in Venice by Antonio Gardane.
In version #2, the violin bow lies across the strings and the open book of music - a prominent object for the observation of light and shade. In version #1 it is handled in a much less interesting way. Placed underneath the violin scroll, the bow can scarcely be distinguished from the brownish pattern of the carpet. In this version, a stout recorder and a triangular keyboard instrument are the other objects we see. The X-ray picture shows that they were painted over a still-life. The bird-cage motif in the left-hand corner (barely visible on the photo) shows what unusual motifs Caravaggio liked to select - motifs similar to those preferred by Caravaggesque painters in the Netherlands.
Version #2, on the other hand, plays with the motifs of Caravaggio's other early arrangements of still-life and individual figures. Pieces of fruit lie on the marble slab, extremely brightly colored and brilliantly painted. A crystal vase contains a bunch of flowers, which would have made even Jan Bruegel the Elder jealous. The colors are applied uninhibitedly with a loaded brush - with a richness and precision we do not see elsewhere in Caravaggio's work.
a minutely different Lute Player #2 (1596, 94x119cm) This painting, mentioned in Del Monte's inventory, shows a single lutanist singing a love song; and a related 'carafe with flowers' is also listed in the catalogue of the Del Monte sale. From the seventeenth century there have been uncertainties about the gender of the singer. Baglione and the Del Monte inventory call him a boy; Bellori, who knew only a copy, calls him a girl. There are reasons for this confusion. One is the Renaissance fascination with androgyny - the singer is not much older than Shakespeare's Rosalind, who renamed herself Ganymede, and Viola, who renamed herself Cesario - and another is the Italian fashion for castrati. The lutanist, with parted lips, sings of love from the madrigal Voi sapete ch ['io v'amo] (you know that [I love you]) by the Flemish composer Arcadelt. In front of him are a violin and bow which invite the spectator to take part in a duet with him; the fruit and the vegetables, and indeed the music itself, imply the harmony that should exist between lovers. Among the early works this painting must count as a virtuoso performance. The glass carafe and its flowers are painted with assured mastery, and Caravaggio is also aware of the problems of perspective that lutes and violins could cause; and he spotlights the the solo player and his instruments so as to make them the main focus of attention, the carafe of flowers so that they are a secondary focus. One of his most talented followers, Orazio Gentileschi, was to paint a girl Lute Player (1626) with a more beguiling sense of poetry, but without the sense of immediacy that was the hallmark of his master's craft. _ detail _ The open song book depicts the composition of Jacques (Jacob) Arcadelt, the bass voice of a popular madrigal Voi sapete ch ['io v'amo]. The inscription can be read as "Gallus" or "Bassus".
(1596, 95x85cm) In order to understand the historical position of Caravaggio's
art, we have to be aware of his peerless and revolutionary handling of subject
matter. This is true not only of his religious themes, but also of his secular
themes. His Bacchus no longer appears to us like an ancient god, or the
Olympian vision of the High Renaissance and Mannerism. Instead, Caravaggio
paints a rather vulgar and effeminately preened youth, who turns his plump
face towards us and offers us wine from a goblet held by pertly cocked fingers
with grimy nails. This is not Bacchus himself, but some perfectly ordinary
individual dressed up as Bacchus, who looks at us rather wearily and yet
alertly. On the one hand, by turning this heathen figure into a somewhat
ambiguous purveyor of pleasures, Caravaggio is certainly the great realist
he is always claimed to be. On the other hand, however, the sensual lyricism
of his painting is so overwhelming that any suspicion of caricature or travesty
would be inappropriate. _ detail 1
(25x20cm) Bacchus offers us wine from a goblet held by pertly cocked fingers
with grimy nails. _ detail 2
(25x23cm) _ the glass carafe in the lower left corner.
Sick Bacchus (1593, 67x53cm) _ Among Caravaggio's early works, this painting, in which the pose of the arm may recall his debt to the kneeling shepherd in a fresco by Peterzano, belongs to the small group which has always been seen as self-portraits. The livid colors of the subject's face, his teasing smile and the mock seriousness of his mythological dignity all reinforce the attempt to undermine the lofty pretensions of Renaissance artistic traditions. Here is no god, just a sickly young man who may be suffering from the after-effects of a hangover. There is no mistaking the artist's delight in the depiction of the fine peaches and black grapes on the slab, the white grapes in his hand and the vine leaves that crown his hair, but the artist is not content merely to demonstrate his superb technique: he wishes to play an intimate role and only the slab separates him from the viewer. His appearance is striking rather than handsome: he shows both that his face is unhealthy and that his right shoulder is not that of a bronzed Adonis, as convention required, but pale as in the case of any man who normally wears clothes.
Basket of Fruit (1597, 31x47cm) _ Caravaggio is reported to have claimed that he put as much effort into painting a vase of flowers as he did into painting human figures. Such an attitude not only calls into question the hierarchy of pictorial genres that had prevailed since Alberti, but also marks the beginning of a tradition of European still-life painting that was to develop continuously from then on. Whereas, until then, there had only been occasional cases of "pure" object paintings one by Carpaccio, a hunting trophy by Barbari and a message (1506) about one Antonio da Crevalcore, who is said to have made a "painting full of fruit" - from Caravaggio onwards, still-life was to be the most popular of genres. It is a response to the increase of private art collections and their demand for profane and virtuoso painting. Caravaggio compensated for the apparent loss of contentual gravity in an astonishing way. The basket is at eye level and juts out over the edge of the table into the real space of the spectator. In this formal exaggeration and with a viewpoint liberated from all attributive connotations, the otherwise trivial object takes on an unheard of monumentality that renders the secret lives of objects, the play of light on their surfaces and the variety of their textures worthy of such painting.
The intensification of agriculture from the early 16th century onwards was accompanied by the promotion of the botanical sciences. These new insights then influenced the 'pater familias' literature, which also included advice on the improvement of fruit farming. It is worth noting that early market, kitchen and pantry paintings (e.g. by Joachim Beuckelaer, Frans Snyders and Adriaen van Utrecht) displayed not only vegetables piled up in baskets, but also fruits of all kinds, bulging out over the edge of the plate. Fruit included everything that grew on trees, such as apples, pears, nuts, cherries, plums, peaches, apricots, quinces, chestnuts, etc., as well as shrub fruit, such as blackberries, raspberries and currants. Fruit was always one of the last courses in a banquet. In the cuisine of the landed gentry and the merchant classes, great emphasis was therefore placed o the more refined fruits: wild fruit from the woods, fields and meadows were considered inferior, as they were smaller and had less taste. Every larger household therefore had an orchard that was laid out and cultivated according to the latest knowledge, where summer and winter fruits were grown that had to be frost-resistant and suitable for longer storage. Similar to nowadays, people valued firmness and a rich, juicy consistency, brought about by hybridization and special methods of cultivation. In earlier still-lifes the different fruits were still neatly separated, and depicted either as market products or freshly harvested and straight from the trees or shrubs, as in Vincenzo Campi's paintings. Later, the motif of the market or pantry with its emphasis on variety was increasingly given up in favour of isolated fruit baskets where different fruits were put together like flower arrangements. One of the first example is Caravaggio's Fruit Basket from about 1596.
Martha and Mary Magdalene (1598) _ This painting has an iconographically very unusual theme. It shows Martha reproaching Mary Magdalene for her vanity, a subject that we know through a series of copies. This version has recently been recognized as the original. The religious theme is treated in a substantially profane manner. It is a pretext for making passages of highly intensive painting and for constructing an image that, seen in the context of the usual dichotomy of Caravaggio's early years, is more of a genre scene than a religious one.
(1597, 122x98cm) _ This picture and The Rest on the Flight into Egypt
must have been painted around the same time, for the same girl sat for the
Magdalene and the Madonna. On this occasion, however, there are none of
the usual signs of a religious scene such as a halo. A young girl, seen
from above, is seated on a low stool in one of Caravaggio's favorite cave-like
settings, with a triangle of light high up on the wall behind her. Discarded
36x30cm) a string of pearls, clasps, a jar (perhaps holding precious
ointment) lies on the floor. The girl's hair is loose, as if it has
just been washed. Her costume, consisting of a white-sleeved blouse, a yellow
tunic and a flowery skirt, is rich. Bellori, who gives a careful description
of this picture, which he came across in the collection of Prince Pamphilj,
regards its title as an excuse; for him it is just a naturalistic portrayal
of a pretty girl. This seems to show a willful failure to understand Caravaggio's
intention or the wishes of the man who commissioned it, Monsignor Petrignani.
The repentant Mary Magdalene, like the repentant Peter, was a favourite
subject of Counter-Reformation art and poetry, which valued the visible
expression of the state of contrition 'the gift of tears'. Caravaggio's
heroine is sobbing silently to herself and a single tear falls down her
cheek. She is, as it were, poised between her past life of luxury and the
simple life she will embrace as one of Christ's most faithful followers.
It is a sign of the painter's skill that he makes this inner conflict moving
at the same time as he makes its representation delectable. Although nothing
painted in the sixteenth century is as emotive as the statue in wood of
the haggard Penitent
Magdalene carved by Donatello
(1456), by the time Titian's
Magdalene of 1533 had become his more modest and affecting Penitent
St. Mary Magdalene of 1565, there had been a move in religious
sensibility towards the humble and pathetic, a change which thirty years
later Caravaggio could take for granted.
Rest on Flight to Egypt (1597, 133x166cm) The story of the Holy Family's flight was one of the most popular apocryphal legends which survived the prohibitive decrees of the Council of Trent and often appeared in painting from the end of the sixteenth century. Caravaggio's idyllic painting is an individualistic representation of this. The artist ingeniously uses the figure of an angel playing the violin with his back to the viewer to divide the composition into two parts. On the right, before an autumnal river-front scene, we can see the sleeping Mary with a dozing infant in her left; on the left, a seated Joseph holding the musical score for the angel. The natural surroundings reminds the viewer of the Giorgionesque landscapes of the Cinquecento masters of Northern Italian painting, and it is fully imbued with a degree of nostalgia. Contrasting the unlikelihood of the event is the realistic effect of depiction, the accuracy of details, the trees, the leaves and stones, whereby the total impression becomes astonishingly authentic. The statue-like figure of the angel, with a white robe draped around him, is like a charmingly shaped musical motif, and it provides the basic tone for the composition. It is an interesting contradiction and at the same time a good example for the adaptability of forms that this figure of pure classical beauty is a direct descendant of Annibale Carracci's Luxuria from the painting The Choice of Heracles. It has not been clearly decided what was the textual source for the music-playing angel in the story of the flight into Egypt. Charming is Caravaggio's decision to actively involve St Joseph in the music-making. _ detail 1 (61x48cm) _ The composition fans out from an exquisite angel who is playing music. Joseph is wearing clothes of earth-color and is holding a book of music, from which the angel is playing a violin solo, whilst the donkey's large eyes peeps out from under the brown foliage. The Angel is playing a motet in honour of the Madonna, Quam pulchra es..., composed by Noël Bauldewijn to the words of the Song of Songs (7,7) with the dialogue between Groom and Bride (understood in the painting not so much as Joseph and Mary, but as Jesus Christ and the Madonna, i.e. the church): "How fair and pleasant art thou, O love, for delights! This thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes." In the Gospel according to the pseudo-Matthew (20,1), significantly dedicated to the Flight into Egypt, the same metaphorical image of the palm tree laden with fruit returns. The principal motif of Caravaggio's Flight into Egypt is that of the music that can be heard on earth, considered by the Fathers of the Church to be a copy of music in heaven. The intermediary between these two worlds is the invisible sound, which in art takes the form of an Angel playing music, a divine messenger that stands at the border between material and spiritual reality. God communicates with men through Angels, who are his go-betweens: "[it is the] Angel who spoke to me," says Zachariah and for Ezekiel, the Angel is "the man dressed in linen," just as Caravaggio depicts him. _ detail 2 (60x48 cm) The golden section splits the composition into two parts: the left-hand one, with St Joseph, the donkey, and stones, is dedicated to earthly life, while the right-hand area, which includes the Madonna and Child among living plants, is devoted to the divine world. On this detail we can see before an autumnal river-front scene the sleeping Mary with a dozing infant in her left.
St Catherine of Alexandria (1598, 173x133cm) _ Here we see a single female figure in an interior devoid of architectural allusions. The image appears with a boldness and an immediacy that combine the nobility of the subject (St Catherine of Alexandria was a king's daughter) with the almost plebeian pride of the model (no doubt a Roman woman of the people, who appears on other paintings of the artist, too). The breadth of conception and realization, and the perfect mastery of a very difficult composition (the figure and objects completely fill the painting, in a subtle play of diagonals) are striking. Caravaggio here chose a "grand" noble approach that heralds the great religious compositions he would soon do for San Luigi dei Francesi. The extraordinary virtuosity in the painting of the large, decorated cloth is absorbed as an integral part of the composition. This is something his followers would not often succeed in doing, for they frequently dealt with the single components of the painting individually, with adverse effects on the unity of the whole.
— Ragazzo morso dal ramarro (66x52cm; 920x681, 113kb) — Bacchino malato (1594, 67x53cm; )
— 79 images at ARC