• Roger Blikkberget

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

Michelangelo Merisi (Michele Angelo Merigi or Amerighi) da Caravaggio28 September 1571 – 18 July 1610) was an Italian painter active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily from the early 1590s to 1610. His paintings combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, and they had a formative influence on Baroque painting.

Caravaggio employed close physical observation with a dramatic use of chiaroscuro that came to be known as tenebrism. He made the technique a dominant stylistic element, darkening shadows and transfixing subjects in bright shafts of light. Caravaggio vividly expressed crucial moments and scenes, often featuring violent struggles, torture and death. He worked rapidly, with live models, preferring to forego drawings and work directly onto the canvas. His influence on the new Baroque style that emerged from Mannerism was profound. It can be seen directly or indirectly in the work of Peter Paul Rubens, Jusepe de Ribera, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and Rembrandt, and artists in the following generation heavily under his influence were called the "Caravaggisti" or "Caravagesques", as well as tenebrists or tenebrosi ("shadowists").

Saint Jerome Writing, also called Saint Jerome in His Study or simply Saint Jerome, is an oil painting by Italian painter Caravaggio. Generally dated to 1605-1606, the painting is located in the Galleria Borghese in Rome.  The painting depicts Saint Jerome, a Doctor of the Church in Roman Catholicism and a popular subject for painting, even for Caravaggio, who produced other paintings of Jerome in Meditation and engaged in writing. In this image, Jerome is reading intently, an outstretched arm resting with quill. It has been suggested that Jerome is depicted in the act of translating the Vulgate.  The painting is generally dated to 1605-1606, largely on the statements of 17th-century art historical biographer Gian Pietro Bellori, though Denis Mahon suggests 1602-1604. According to Bellori, Caravaggio produced the piece at the behest of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who became a cardinal in 1605, but it is possible that Borghese acquired it later as it is not mentioned in a 1613 poem by Scipione Francucci that described the Borghese Caravaggio collection. Whether or not the dating is accurate, the work is believed to have originated from Caravaggio's late Roman period, which ended with the painter's exile to Malta in 1606.  That Saint Jerome Writing is the work of Caravaggio is sometimes brought into question, as it was attributed to Ribera in the Borghese inventories from 1700 until 1893.
Saint Jerome writing 1605-09

Caravaggio trained as a painter in Milan before moving in his twenties to Rome. He developed a considerable name as an artist, and as a violent, touchy and provocative man. A brawl led to a death sentence for murder and forced him to flee to Naples. There he again established himself as one of the most prominent Italian painters of his generation. He traveled in 1607 to Malta and on to Sicily, and pursued a papal pardon for his sentence. In 1609 he returned to Naples, where he was involved in a violent clash; his face was disfigured and rumours of his death circulated. Questions about his mental state arose from his erratic and bizarre behavior. He died in 1610 under uncertain circumstances while on his way from Naples to Rome. Reports stated that he died of a fever, but suggestions have been made that he was murdered or that he died of lead poisoning.

The Lute Player c.1596

Caravaggio's innovations inspired Baroque painting, but the Baroque incorporated the drama of his chiaroscuro without the psychological realism. The style evolved and fashions changed, and Caravaggio fell out of favor. In the 20th century interest in his work revived, and his importance to the development of Western art was reevaluated. The 20th-century art historian André Berne-Joffroy stated, "What begins in the work of Caravaggio is, quite simply, modern painting."


The Incredulity of Saint Thomas is a painting of the subject of the same name by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio, c. 1601–1602. It shows the episode that gave rise to the term "Doubting Thomas" which, formally known as the Incredulity of Thomas, had been frequently represented in Christian art since at least the 5th century, and used to make a variety of theological points. According to St John's Gospel, Thomas the Apostle missed one of Jesus's appearances to the Apostles after His resurrection, and said "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." John 20:25 A week later Jesus appeared and told Thomas to touch Him and stop doubting. Then Jesus said, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." John 20:29  In the painting, Thomas's face shows surprise as Jesus holds his hand and guides it into the wound. The absence of a halo emphasizes the corporeality of the risen Christ. The work is in chiaroscuro.  This picture is probably related to Saint Matthew and the Angel (1602) and the Sacrifice of Isaac (1603), all having a model in common. It belonged to Vincenzo Giustiniani before entering the Prussian royal collection, surviving the Second World War intact.  A second version of "The Incredulity of Saint Thomas" has been re-discovered in Trieste, Italy in a private collection. It is published in the Maurizio Marini corpus catalogico "Caravaggio - Pictor praestantissimus" Newton & Compton - 2005 in the position Q50. The painting is declared "d'interesse artistico e storico" by the "Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali Sopraintendenza Regionale del Fiuli - Venezia Giulia". Its authenticity has been attested by several experts including Maurizio Marini, Maria Ranacher and Sir Denis Mahon and confirmed by a court in Trieste.
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas,c. 1601–1602

Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi or Amerighi) was born in Milan, where his father, Fermo (Fermo Merixio), was a household administrator and architect-decorator to the Marchese of Caravaggio, a town not far from the city of Bergamo. His mother, Lucia Aratori (Lutia de Oratoribus), came from a propertied family of the same district. In 1576 the family moved to Caravaggio (Caravaggius) to escape a plague that ravaged Milan, and Caravaggio's father and grandfather both died there on the same day in 1577. It is assumed that the artist grew up in Caravaggio, but his family kept up connections with the Sforzas and with the powerful Colonna family, who were allied by marriage with the Sforzas and destined to play a major role later in Caravaggio's life.

David and Goliath (or David with the Head of Goliath or David Victorious over Goliath) is a painting by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio (1571–1610). It was painted in about 1599, and is held in the Museo del Prado, Madrid. Two later versions of the same theme are currently to be seen in Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (David with the Head of Goliath), and in Rome's Galleria Borghese (David with the Head of Goliath).  The David and Goliath in the Prado was painted in the early part of the artist's career, while he was a member of the household of Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte. It shows the Biblical David as a young boy (in accordance with the Bible story) fastening the head of the champion of the Philistines, the giant Goliath, by the hair. The light catches on David's leg, arm and flank, on the massive shoulders from which Goliath's head has been severed, and on the head itself, but everything else is dark. Even David's face is almost invisible in the shadows. A wound on Goliath's forehead shows where he has been felled by the stone from David's sling. The overwhelming impression is of some action intensely personal and private - no triumph, no armies, no victory.  Caravaggio originally showed Goliath's face fixed in wild-eyed open-mouthed terror, tongue rolling, eyeballs swivelled to the edges of the sockets. In the finished painting the melodrama is banished: the drama is transferred from Goliath to the quietly efficient David, his face almost hidden, intent on his work with his hands in his enemy's hair, kneeling almost casually on the man's torso.  This painting and two others done at about the same time – the first version of Sacrifice of Isaac and the first John the Baptist – were taken to Spain shortly after they were made, where they were frequently copied and made a deep impression on art in that country.
David and Goliath (or David with the Head of Goliath or David Victorious over Goliath) c.1599

Viladomat Fine Art have a very good portfolio of Caravaggio paintings for sale directly from owners. If you are interested in acquiring an original Caravaggio please contact us at roger@viladomatfineart.com

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