Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio – Archetype of the Wicked Genius

Judith and Holofernes by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, (1598)

On September 28, 1573, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, genius Italian artist of the Renaissance was born in Milano. He was best known for his realistic paintings with a dramatic appearance of lighting.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio grew up in the little town Caravaggio near Milan and after both of his parents have passed away, he began his apprenticeship at the famous painter Titian. Later on he had to escape from police charges and moved to Rome, where he began working for Giuseppe Cesari, the favored artist of Pope Clement VIII. He mostly painted fruits or flowers in this period. He then was able to introduce himself to some art collectors and improve his reputation.

In the late 1590’s Caravaggio brought back the realism with his religion-themed paintings like ‘Penitent Magdalene‘, famous for this period, because of it dealing with the theme religion so discreetly. Many popular artists followed his style then increasing Caravaggio’s fame tremendously.

In 1599, the now famous painter Caravaggio was to paint the Contarelli Chapel of San Luigi dei Francesi’s church and more than succeeded with his work.  A few paintings then followed, discussing the topics death and turture that he had to repaint due to his realism, which was sometimes not accepted in this period, but in contrast his tendency to dramatic intensity was appreciated. Caravaggio transformed into a very polarizing and highly discussed artist, often broaching the issue of religion and mixing it with other topics like science or ‘displacing’ religious symbols in his pictures. For instance the ‘Crucifixion of Saint Peter‘ shows the saint on the ground while presenting his horse’s hind end in the center, which was sharply criticized.

In the early 17th century Caravaggio has killed a man, forcing him to flee again and landing in Naples, where he again became famous for his works. After some months he left for Malta, where he was imprisoned but able to escape to Syracuse, where he also got married. 

In his final years, Caravaggio painted many pictures revealing his nervousness and uncertainty. His later works like ‘David with the Head of Goliath‘ also discussed his psychological bizarreness, especially after an unsuccessful attempt to murder the famous artist.

Caravaggio was a great artist, sometimes ahead of his time and unafraid to affront people with his paintings. However, he influenced many younger artists, especially in the Baroque painting.

At yovisto you may enjoy a video ‘Caravaggio, Mad Marketing Genius‘ by Andrew Graham-Dixon.

References and Further Reading:

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