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CARAVAGGIO
Birth name: Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio

Born: 29 Sep 1571 Milan, Italy

Death: 16 Jul 1610 Italy
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Introduction
Assault. Murder. Consorting with the devil. The notorious succs-
de-scandale of the 17th century, Michelangelo Merisi da
Caravaggio was accused of all of these and more during his
tempestuous career.
Condemned as the "antichrist of painting," Caravaggio was as
controversial for his revolutionary artworks as he was for his
infamous temper and lengthy police record.

A notorious painter during his life, following his death Caravaggio
was largely forgotten and it wasn't until the 20th century that his
key role in the development of Western art was remembered.

Despite a scandalous lifestyle helping to preserve interest in
Caravaggio throughout the centuries, in the end, it is the true
genius of his works that has won his place in the history of art as
well as in the contemporary imagination.
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Introduction
Caravaggio's works constitute some of the most stunning works in the
entire history of Western painting.
Observing the evolution of his style from his early works (The Fortune Teller,
Bacchus and Narcissus) to his major successes (The Calling of Saint
Matthew and Doubting Thomas) to his final paintings (David with the Head of
Goliath) is like watching the tumultuous ups and downs of his life.

Although chiaroscuro was used long before Caravaggio came onto the art
scene it was he who defined the technique and darkened the shadows.
The artist's observation of physical and psychological reality strengthened
his popularity but caused problems with his religious assignments.

A prolific artist, Caravaggio worked quickly, using live models and using
the end of his brush handle to score basic outlines of his work. His
preference for working directly onto the canvas was alien to his peers and
they accused him of idealizing his figures.

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Personal Life
Caravaggio takes his name from the town in which he was born in 1571 to
a majordomo in a region of Italy known as Lombardy. The artist was born
during the politically and spiritually tumultuous time of the Counter-
Reformation, when the Catholic church was trying to regroup after the
Protestant Reformation, and this historical context had an indelible impact
on his personal and artistic development.
Caravaggio's father died from the plague when the artist was only 6 years
old.
At age 13, Caravaggio was apprenticed to Milanese artist Peterzano, who
instructed the young man in the basics of the craft, such as preparing
pigments, mixing colors, and the rudiments of drawing, anatomy, and
perspective.
The unprecedented naturalism that marked Caravaggio's mature style most likely
had its roots here: there was a markedly naturalist trend in the art of the
Lombardy region, and art historian Helen Langdon suggests that Peterzano may
have encouraged the young Caravaggio to study from nature.
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Personal Life
Still a young man, Caravaggio moved to Rome in 1592, where he
spent his first years in utter poverty, painting for the open market.
His career got a much-needed jumpstart when the influential art lover
Cardinal del Monte took the young artist under his wing and became
his first steady patron.
Caravaggio attracted an overwhelming share of virulent critics and
enemies: socially, he was a belligerent, rude, violent and finally
homicidal hot head, while artistically, he was a daring rule breaker who
thwarted the classical rules of art.
At the same time, however, his ability to depict religious scenes with
an unprecedented approachability and the most human of feelings and
sentiment provided invaluable inspiration for artists throughout the
ages, including such masters as Rubens, Velasquez and Rembrandt.

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Influences
Michelangelo:
Even Caravaggio couldn't resist drawing inspiration from the lesson of the
great Renaissance master, Michelangelo. Caravaggio would have had ample
opportunity to observe Michelangelo's works all across Rome, especially in
the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo's influence is clear in Caravaggio's The
Calling of Saint Matthew, where Christ's hand is an exact reflection of the
hand of Adam.

Leonardo da Vinci:
No succeeding Italian artist could paint without some evidence of da Vinci in
his works, whether it was intended or not.

Drer:
Although a native of far away Germany, the influence of this genius of the
Renaissance extended as far as Italy. Caravaggio could have known Drer's
works thanks to the freely circulating copies of his engravings and prints.

Northern art:
Especially in his early works, Caravaggio reveals a remarkable skill for still-
lifes, particularly fruits and flowers, as is evident in works like Basket of Fruit,
Bacchus and The Lute Player. This subject was imported to Italy from the
sumptuous pictures of fruits and flowers that abounded in Dutch and Flemish
art, notably in the works of artists like Pieter Aertsen and Joachim
Beuckelaer.
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Artistic Context/Cultural
Caravaggio is a pioneer of the Italian Baroque style that grew out of the
Mannerist era. Italian Baroque art was not widely different to Italian
Renaissance painting but the color palette was richer and darker and the
theme of religion was more popular.

At the end of the 16th century, Caravaggio was fortunate to be working
during the Counter Reformation, when virtually the entire city of Rome
underwent a construction project as the Catholic Church renovated old
churches and constructed new ones in an effort to attract Protestant
converts back to the faith. All these new spaces needed lavish amounts of
decoration, and artists were all too ready to fill that need.

As well as this, Caravaggio was also exposed to a new interest in
scientific naturalism flourishing in northern Italy, due in part to the influx of
artworks from northern Europe. Consequently, Caravaggio developed a
style of unflinching realism, unprecedented approachability and a direct
appeal to the emotions that had no equal among his peers and helped to
mould 17th century Italian art.
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Formal Framework
Caravaggio's works were so controversial in their own time (and for
centuries after) for their utterly innovative, revolutionary style. The intense,
dramatic contrasts of light and dark, resolute realism, meticulous attention
to naturalistic detail and approachable, life-like models set Caravaggio's
paintings apart from all the masters that preceded him.
Caravaggio's first known paintings date from his arrival in Rome in 1592.
During these first years, he was completely destitute and painted small
genre scenes, self-portraits and still-lifes to earn money on the open
market.
From 1595 onwards, Caravaggio's career was boosted when the
influential Cardinal del Monte welcomed him into his court. The young
artist executed paintings for the Cardinal and took advantage of his
connections to garner prime commissions from Rome's wealthiest patrons
and collectors
The artist's compositions became more complex and contained various
characters. Additionally Caravaggio's pictures became darker during this
time.
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AMOR VINCIT OMNIA
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Caravaggio's depiction of
Cupid, rather than the cherub-
like, idealized boy, is realistic,
from the crooked grin to the
tousled head of hair.
The painting was
commissioned by a rich patron
Vincenzo Guistanini, who
retained it in his possession
and reportedly loved it above
all others.
The painting was an
immediate success, and
inspired contemporary
artworks, including poems and
epigrams along the same
theme.
Caravaggio, Amor Vincit
Omnia, 160102, oil on
canvas, 191 x 148cm,
Gemldegalerie, Berlin

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In this painting, the boy is knowing and insolent, rather than
heroic or ideal.
His pose seems to derive from 's Victory, but unlike that
precarious hero, he is firmly in the saddle.
He is triumphant over the intellectual life: music (the old-style
lute, the new Cremonese violin, and the score, with the incipit
beginning with V, perhaps for Vincenzo), geometry (the T
square and compass), and astronomy (the blue globe with
stars)
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The subtlety of the painting is not limited to the theme.
The left background is strangely incomplete, with incomprehensible
marks above the musical instruments, as if Caravaggio had
carelessly rubbed the pigment off his brushes there.
The change between warm and cool neutrals in the upper and the
right backgrounds makes clear that he lavished attention on it.
The lack of any division between wall and floor seems to remind us
that the figure and the objects are illusory from the canvas rather
than from the room, as the painter's creations.
The disproportion between the short right arm, the long legs, and
the large head and the short, but well-developed, torso suggests
that Caravaggio was deliberately utilizing the forms as well as the
pose of the Victory.
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Summary
By all accounts, Caravaggio (15711610) was a volatile and
violent man.
He led a life marked by murder and exile and died before he was 40.
Given these experiences, he painted many scenes of struggle, torture
and death in his relatively short career.

He was born at a time when the classical idealism of Michelangelo was
considered the height of beauty.

Like Michelangelo, he painted from life, but his models were ordinary
people, including street children and prostitutes; and, in his religious
paintings, they did not look particularly holy. This was controversial
while it was easier for ordinary people to identify with the characters
in his religious stories, many of his patrons thought his figures were
vulgar and some refused to accept and pay for his work.


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Amor Vincit Omnia was inspired
by a line from the Roman poet
Virgil, Love conquers all: let us
yield to love! and was a common
theme at the time.

In the painting, we see the young
god Amor, known to the ancient
Romans as Cupid, spot lit against a
dark and poorly defined
background. On his back is a pair of
powerful eagles wings and at his
feet are symbols of war, music and
learning. The young figure was
painted from a model and reflects
the artists acute observation of
reality.

Amor makes eye contact with the
viewer and his cheeky grin is
endearing.

Caravaggio, Amor Vincit
Omnia, 160102, oil on
canvas, 191 x 148cm,
Gemldegalerie, Berlin