September 29, 2006

Buon Compleanno, Signore Merisi da Caravaggio!

Yesterday, was the 435th anniversary of the birth of my favorite painter: Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. I, completely, spaced it. Be assured, this is not the first time I've forgotten a birthday.

This painter, is NOT THE Michelangelo of the Sistine Chapel. My guy is "called" by the town he grew up in, Caravaggio, near Milan. Michelangelo of the Sistine Chapel gets to be called by his first name, like Cher.

Caravaggio had a "colorful" life to put it mildly. He was a notorious brawler. He was possibly a murderer, though there are disputes over whether or not it was an accidental killing. The murder occurred during a fight. In spite of his lifestyle he continued to find patronage. He painted several monumental religous paintings. He was a member of the Knights of Malta for a time, until he had to go "on the run" again after a knight was seriously wounded as the result of yet another brawl involving the painter. He was incarcerated for a time. He had many enemies and at least one attempt was made on his life. He spent a lot of his time when he was not painting, fighting and running.

He is, to me, THE master of light and dark, shadow and light in oil. A blog insert does not do his paintings justice, you have to actually stand before the work to get the full impact. My favorite Caravaggio is The Taking of Christ. It's at the top of this post. I saw it at the National Gallery of Ireland in 1990. It was the first Caravaggio, I'd ever seen. It grabbed me from across the room and would not let me go. It gives the viewer a "you are there" feeling and the "glare" is so vivid on the black armor of the soldier with his arm across the foreground you swear that if you look closely you can see yourself in the reflection of a mirror that is not really there.

Caravaggio is also responsible for the painting of my patron saint, St. Catherine of Alexandria, that adorns my blog.

For those who love a good conspiracy (Stephan!), Caravaggio supposedly died of a fever on July 18, 1610. The date is not certain. Caravaggio's body was never found.

Addendum: I forgot to mention this in my original post. If you live in the Twin Cities area, the Minneapolis Institute of Art will be showing a Caravaggio on loan from the Wadsworth Atheneum in Connecticut: St. Francis of Assisi in Ecstacy. The MIA show is called: A Passion for Paintings: Old Masters from the Wadsworth Atheneum. The exhibition runs from October 8, 2006-January 7, 2007. The MIA is one of my favorite places to visit during the holidays because I enjoy the Period Rooms' Holiday decorations. The Caravaggio will be an added treat for me this year!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Cathy! I also love Caravaggio and I have been fortunate to see his works in several galleries. You are certainly right about his being a master of light (and dark). One of my favorites of his I saw in the Louvre, which is Salome being presented the head of John the Baptist. The repulsed look on Salome's face as she can't stand to look at the "prize" she herself asked for is so masterful, as she seems to finally grasp the gravity of what she did.

October 01, 2006 11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops...I tried posting a comment before but I think I clicked out before I pushed publish.

Anwway, great post on Caravaggio! He is one of my favorites too and I have been fortunate to see his works in quite a few galleries. You are right that he is a master of light (and dark)!

October 01, 2006 11:23 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Yes, Caravaggio does a good job with faces. Another "repulsive" Caravaggio is Judith taking the head of Holofernes. I don't remember the exact title of the painting but it's quite graphic.

Oh, this reminds me, I forgot to mention an upcoming show with some Caravaggio in it. I'll post that update.

October 01, 2006 6:00 PM  
Blogger Terry Nelson said...

I absolutely love Caravaggio. He was kind of a shady character as well. Great post!

October 03, 2006 9:26 PM  

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