From Shadow to Light, Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio
29 September 1571: Michelangle Merisi is born in Caravaggio. His father,
Fermo, is both architect and majordomo to Francesco Sforza, the Marquis
of Caravaggio :
- at 13, he is apprenticed for four years to Simone Perterzano in Milan;
- having completed his apprenticeship, he works a few years probably in Milan or
elsewhere in Lombard.
- arrival in Rome at 21
- he works for Cavaliere d'Arpino
- leads an extremely frugal existence
- meets Valentin, an art dealer located near S. Luigi dei Francesi
- introduced to Cardinal del Monte
12 May 1605: arrested for illegal carrying of firearms
10 July 1605: imprisoned in Tor di Nonna for a womanizing episode.
- during a "four to four" brawl, he kills Ranuccio Tammasoni da Terni.
- flees Rome for Palestrina, to the home of Prince M. Clonna, the Marquis da Caravaggio's brother-in-law.
Death of the Virgin
- flees to Naples.
- goes from Naples to Malta, where "he has good customers": the Knights of the Order of St. John.
Beheading of St. John the Baptist for the cathedral
-6 October: alerted by rumors from Rome, the knights carry out an investigation of
Caravaggio; summoned to appear before the Order, he is expelled from their
ranks and driven out of Malta on December 1.
-he reappears in Sicily, Syracuse, Messina, and Palermo.
- the clergy of the Crociferi Church in Messina records the acquisition of the Raising of Lazarus
- Caravaggio reappears in Naples, where he is gravely wounded upon leaving the Cerriglio tavern.
- informed of his imminent pardon, Caravaggio sails off to Porto Ercole (Spanish
enclave on Tuscan coast); he crosses over the boundary of the Papal States, where
he is arrested and then released
- as narrated by Baglione in his chronicles of the period: "Once released, he
could no longer find the felucca. Furious and desperate, he ran up and down the
beach, sweltering under the sun and scanning the horizon for the boat carrying
off all his meager belongings.
At noon he suffered a fever attack and lay down.
Without any human assistance, over almost three days, he died as he had lived,
miserably. It was July 18th. In Rome, his pardon had been granted the day before!"
An extraordinary personage. One of the most colorful personalities in the history of painting:
A genius in all he created
Leading a life of debauchery, drinking, and brawls
An exile, a wanderer, a solitary figure
Revolutionary in everything he undertook
A romantic figure before his time
Karl von Mandel, Giulio Mancini, Giovanni Baglion, exegetes of this artist, paint
a black picture of Caravaggio as a social misfit with a turbulent and provocative character.
Bellori: "His temperament encouraged his dark side, to match his turbulent and
Poussin: "He destroyed the art of painting."
Cardinal del Monte: "He had as much trouble painting flowers as figures,
since he lacked any preconceived distinction between the beautiful and the ugly,
the noble and the base."
It was not until the Milan exhibition of 1951 that, at last, this artist's oeuvre
came to reveal the complexity of his personality:
It became clear above all that he was intensely a product of his times;
He was born in the year of the massacre on St Bartholomew's Day in Paris;
He died in the year of the assassination of Henry IV.