Caravaggio

1573 – 1610 Porto Ercole  

H

Lecture National Gallery October, 2002

Argumentative, violent, unpleasant, show off, short tempered

Among 6 major painters (also mentioned Van Gogh, Raphael, Picasso) whom had a MAJOR impact on what came next.

C’s impact can now be seen in 20th cent: in film: TV screen format of his paintings, melodramatic lighting, right into the action, chopped off legs.

How important is the biography to our appreciation of a painting AND how important is the biography (life of the artist) to the making of a picture.

C had to leave Rome because he murdered someone (premeditated?) in a bar and had to flee. Documentation said it was over a tennis match. Thomas Oney?, the murdered guy, and C. were in a feud.

1600-05 in Rome he appears in court at least 11 times (documented) due to violence, last one (at least) was as a witness. He is present where violence takes place even if he is not actively participating in it.

    St. John the Baptist Beheaded (not exactly the title)

(documented story) Made on the run from murder to Naples, then Malta, Sicily, back to Naples, to petition for forgiveness from something he did on Malta – did a lot of painting there for Knights of the Order of St. John, who were nice, pissed them off in 1609. They had chapters all over including Naples. C had been imprisoned on Malta for violence and escaped. Rest of life under sentence of death. Goes to Naples with this picture as a peace offering to the grand master in Naples. Reconciliation not taken up. Walks outside and men (who are these men???) mess him up but he escapes.

Supper at Emas  vs  St. John Beheaded

Negative halo – subversion

Shadows – light of background vs. mat black Saint john

Look at the hands

Look at the surface of things: in Saint john no interest in the, for example, fabric

St. john is placed downstairs in the national gallery, not sure if it is a C. Then an exhibit at the Royal academy of C and it is realized to be similar to other paintings. Done on the run, it is a minimalist picture. Geometrical symmetry   4 heads:

            /

\                       \

            /

Story of St. John:

He insulted Herodias. She wants to get even. Herod likes Salome, Herodias’ daughter. Herod promises Salome anything she wants. In the late 19th century, early 20th this is a very popular story in the opera, etc. She asks for St. John’s head whom Herod has imprisoned.

C uses subjects from the bars he goes to.

St. John is a reprieve of Supper. Supper beginning of his career. (I thought they were 10 yrs apart?) St John is at the end.

Similarities:

People gathered around still life

4 figures

top left have hats on their heads

[Saint. john’s head looks like C (head on a plate)]

detail of edge of Salome’s sleeve and top left man’s collar

But now John is not painting resurrection, but he is afraid of death (not just end of life due to knights) but judgment and hell.

Centerpiece: Christ’s hand blessing vs. executioners hand [me: or the black – dark, despairing, hopelessness]

C recovers from wounds, leaves Naples and goes back to Rome and is arrested because they thought he was a local criminal – he went ballistic – they let him go – he gets some plague or something and dies at 39 in a state of rage.

How much is the biography of this artist caused by romanticism of our view of his paintings.

 

SOURCES

1)    Louvre, Paris.