Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was an Italian painter. Born in Milan, Caravaggio was the leading and the most painter in the late 16th and late 17th centuries. He became famous for his intense and unsettling realism in his work. People would be astonished and be in awe when they see his paintings because it almost brings it to real life. He emphasized the clothes and the body like hands and feet to make it seem more real to viewers. He developed a style of painting called ‘chiaroscuro’. Chiaroscuro is basically using extreme light and dark contrast. He used this style to emphasize the body language and the facial expression the person in the painting poses. His work was almost shocking to people because of his painting style and how real it would be. Throughout his career he would paint a lot of religious style paintings. He would use religious figures like Christ and use them as everyday people. Most people would be confused or may feel some type of way when they view his religious paintings. He has also inspired many artists like, Rembrandt, Valazquez, and Gericault. He has also inspired people in the film industry by showing his dark and light contrast paintings.
Caravaggio wasn’t always the perfect painter. He committed murder at the peak of his career. He had a troubles life. He often assaulted people and was on the run towards the early end of his career. You must be thinking, why someone would commit murder when they are a very successful painter and icon. At a young age he had a hard life and upbringing. He was always violent, and his violence figure and his painting has made him more appealing to the viewers of his art. He was always quick at painting and would finish his art in just two weeks.
One of his paintings, ‘Judith Beheading Holofernes’ shows you the violent and almost creepy side of his work. When you look at the painting you grasp a feeling of sadness and anger. While viewing the painting you see the two females on the right and how the dark and the light contrast with each other making the painting look real. As for the facial expressions you can see the elder lady have a hatred/anger look. The younger female looks almost disgusted but overall, they both don’t have a remorseful look on their faces. On the left you see the male being beheaded and you can easily feel that he is in pain. Seeing the blood gushing out and his facial expression makes you think what his idea was for this painting. He was known for his violent behavior and maybe he put those feelings in this painting and that was the only way he can express those emotions. His work is different from a lot of painters and the way he expresses them through the light and dark contrast and facial expressions is truly amazing.
While becoming a well-known painter he must have been heavily invested in religion. Based on his paintings he has painted many religious works using Christ in many of them and using dark and light contrasts. Being violent and a murderer makes you wonder if he was a religious person. One of his pieces of work, ‘The Flagellation of Christ’ brings back his violent past in his artwork. It seems that most of his art is always something of himself in the painting. While analyzing the art, you can see Christ in the middle who seems to be tied onto a big pole but two angry looking men. The painting had chiaroscuro. There is also one man kneeling on the left, but you can't see his face at all. To a viewer, most people would have a sense of helpless feeling. Christ looks helpless and he can’t do anything but just stand there and let the men do their job. One question you can easily ask from this is, does Caravaggio despise Jesus or Christianity and what they stand for.
After doing some research, Caravaggio has painted two paintings for Contarelli Chapel of San Luigi dei Francesi, the church of the French in Rome. He doesn’t have anything against religion because of the fact he has painted two paintings for the chapel. One of the paintings, ‘The Calling of St. Matthew’ is in the chapel in Rome. ‘The Calling of St. Matthew’ depicts the moment when Jesus Christ inspires Matthew to follow him and become an apostle. An apostle was a follower or disciple. In this case Matthew was the disciple and Jesus were the teacher. In the painting you see Jesus right behind Peter on the right side, pointing at who seems to be Matthew. Caravaggio uses the dark contrast on Jesus to make him look lowkey and kind of unnoticeable. A lot goes on in this painting but the most important thing to look at is the dark and light contrast which is what Caravaggio is famous for.
The other painting that was put in the chapel is called ‘The Martyrdom of St. Matthew’. This is another painting that depicts something violent. The first thing you notice is the person wielding the sword is about to kill the person who is on the floor. The person on the floor is Matthew the Evangelist. You must be wondering why he would be in this situation. According to an analysis on the painting it says that Matthew was lusting towards Hirticus nieces. Hirticus send people to kill Matthew because he was outraged. Not only is Matthew about to be killed but you can see that many other things are happening in this painting. Caravaggio has added 11 other people to this painting to dramatize the scene. Most of the characters in the painting are shocked to see Matthew about to get killed but one thing that stands out is the angle on the cloud above. It seems that he may want to help Matthew. Matthew tries to grab what appears to be a feather reaching down from the cloud which is unusual. The light contrast is mostly attracted to the person wielding the sword and the dark contrast on the other people in the room who don’t seem to be that important in the situation. You can interpret this painting in any way and that’s what is amazing about Caravaggio and how he makes people think hard about his paintings.
Caravaggio has grown so much, and his success just keeps continuing. After doing the paintings in the chapel more people start to notice him and admire his work. After his recent success he was still violent. According to an article about Caravaggio, he was arrested for “assaulting a waiter for serving him a plate of artichokes dressed in butter rather than oil; for throwing stones in the street in the company of, among others, a perfume maker and some prostitutes”. He did many violent things but in between committing those crimes he painted the austere and monumental altarpiece of ‘The Entombment of Christ’ for the Oratorian church of Santa Maria in Vallicella, in Rome. The pattern of him painting something about Christ continues and his use of dark and light contrast seems to be his signature in every painting he does. As you look in the painting Christ is the main figure in this painting, and he seems to be dead. In most of Caravaggio's paintings Christ is usually hurt, vulnerable, or in this case he is dead.
Most of Caravaggio's paintings, he has made many different versions of them. All his work uses dark and light contrast and look real. He focuses a lot on clothing and every little wrinkle in the clothing that make the painting look real.
To reiterate Caravaggio is one of the most famous artists to ever live. His contribution to the art world and showing his unique style in art has inspired others to carry on his legacy and start their own. Caravaggio was a very controversial artist making him one of the most interesting artists to look at and learn about. His life and work have truly made people look more deeply into another famous artist. His paintings on religion have opened many people's eyes and look at him a different way. His work shows major details and it may take you 100 times to find every little detail he has put in his paintings. The emotions and facial expressions make it super interesting to look at. His style of art will forever be carried and live on through generations. His work inspires people and hopefully those people would inspire others to make more historical art.
- Caravaggio: A Passionate Life (eBook on amazon prime).
- Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane (eBook on amazon prime).