Caravaggio – Virtual Tour
Caravaggio (1571 – 1610) was active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily from the early 1590s to 1610. His paintings combine the realistic observation of the physical and emotional human situation with the dramatic use of lighting.
He made the technique of darkening shadows and transfixing subjects in bright shafts of light his dominant stylistic element.
His influence on the new Baroque style that emerged from Mannerism was profound. In the 20th century, interest in his work was revived. Since then, his importance to the development of Western art has been elevated.
Caravaggio trained in Milan before moving in his twenties to Rome. He developed a considerable name as an artist and as a violent and provocative man.
A brawl led to a death sentence for murder, which 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 rumors 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 died of lead poisoning.
A Virtual Tour of Caravaggio
- Supper at Emmaus
- The Musicians
- The Taking of Christ
- The Fortune Teller and Good Luck
- Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness
- The Cardsharps
- The Seven Works of Mercy
Highlights Tour of Caravaggio
“Supper at Emmaus” by Caravaggio depicts the moment when the resurrected Jesus reveals himself to two of his surprised disciples, only to soon vanish from their sight, as told in the Gospel of Luke 24: 30–31.
One of the disciples, Cleopas, wears the scallop shell of a pilgrim on his clothing. The other apostle, presumed to be Luke, wears the green torn coat.
The Musicians by Caravaggio shows four boys in classical costume, three playing various musical instruments and singing, the fourth is dressed as Cupid and reaching towards a bunch of grapes.
Caravaggio seems to have composed the painting based on the studies of two key figures.
The lute’s central character has been identified with Caravaggio’s companion Mario Minniti, and the individual next to him and facing the viewer is possibly a self-portrait of Caravaggio.
The cupid bears a strong resemblance to a boy he painted in two previous paintings. Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art – M.E.T.
“The Taking of Christ” by Caravaggio depicts the arrest of Jesus just as Judas kisses Jesus to identify him for the soldiers.
There are seven figures in the painting: John, Jesus, Judas, three soldiers, and a man holding a lantern.
The characters are portrayed before a very dark background. The man at the right holding a lantern is believed to be a self-portrait of Caravaggio.
At the far left, St John is fleeing as a soldier is grabbing his cloak. Museum: National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
“The Fortune Teller” by Caravaggio shows a pretentiously dressed boy, having his palm read by a gypsy girl. The boy looks with anticipation as he gazes into her face, and she returns his gaze.
The boy’s feathered hat, the gloves, and the oversized dagger immediately tell us that the boy is not sophisticated or experienced.
The gypsy girl with her light linen shirt and her exotic wrap is also intended to represent a “type” rather than a real person. The Italian Baroque artist, Caravaggio, painted two versions of this painting.
“Good Luck” by Caravaggio shows the girl surreptitiously removing the young boy’s ring while reading his fortune. Caravaggio was one of the founders of genre painting in European art.
At the time, Genre Paintings mainly depicted scenes of everyday life, but with a hidden or underlying meaning intended to communicate a moral theme.
The theme of a young man inexperienced in the affairs of life encountering a lady who is experienced and shrewd proved to be a favorite subject.
The young boy is carried away by the gentle touch of her fingers. He does not notice that he is being relieved of his ring.
The composition does not include any background details to indicate the time and place. Instead, it is focused on the encounter of two very different individuals, participating in an exchange that is timeless and universal. Museum: Capitoline Museums
“Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness” by Caravaggio depicts the cousin of Jesus who baptized Jesus in Jordan.
John lived in the wilderness of Judea between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. For the young Caravaggio, John was invariably a boy or youth alone in the wilderness.
This image was based on the statement in the Gospel of Luke that “the child grew and was strengthened in spirit, .. until the day of his manifestation to Israel.”
The subject of “Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness” allowed a religious treatment of the partly clothed youths he liked to paint at this period.
The painting displays Caravaggist’s extreme use of light and shadow and is typical in taking a young John the Baptist as its subject, this time set in a dark landscape.
The psychology of John’s struggles for the truth is conveyed through the artful manipulation of limbs and countenance. Museum: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
“The Cardsharps” by Caravaggio depicts a well-dressed but naive boy playing cards; he is the dupe. The second boy is the cardsharp; he has extra cards tucked in his belt behind his back, out of sight; he also has a dagger handy at his side.
The sinister older man peeks over the boy’s shoulder and signals to his young accomplice with his fingers. “The Cardsharps” has a mixture of brutal real-world realism and the luminous Venetian delicacy.
Caravaggio has not created a caricature of vice but a narrative, in which the interaction of gesture and glance evokes the drama of deception and lost innocence in human terms.
This innovative approach made Caravaggio’s art remarkable and unique and spread his reputation. The subject matter and composition proved to be in high demand as Caravaggio produced more than one version of this work.
Also, over fifty copies and variants made by other painters have survived. Museum: Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth
“The Seven Works of Mercy” by Caravaggio depicts the seven human works of mercy in traditional Catholic beliefs, which are a set of compassionate acts concerning others’ material needs.
The seven acts of mercy are represented in the painting. The angel at the center transmits the grace that inspires humanity’s mercy. The Madona and Christ Child are above the two angels.
The painting was made for the church of Pio Monte della Misericordia in Naples. Originally, it was meant to be seven separate panels around the church.
However, Caravaggio combined all seven works of mercy into one composition, becoming the church’s altarpiece. Museum: Pio Monte della Misericordia, Naples
- Caravaggio is a small town near Milan where Caravaggio was born, around 1571, and from where he took his nickname.
- Caravaggio became an orphan at age 11. The bubonic plague killed most of his family.
- Caravaggio was an essential pioneer of the chiaroscuro technique.
- Almost all of his works portray a single light source, illuminating the action.
- Caravaggio had a violent temper, which often got him into fights.
- Caravaggio liked to include himself in his works.
- Caravaggio was fiercely competitive and scathing of his artistic rivals.
- In 1606 he fled Rome after he killed a man in a brawl.
- Caravaggio had a death warrant issued for him by the Pope.
- He died in 1610, aged 38.
- Caravaggio left behind no letters, but from court records, we have many details of his offenses.
- In 2010, scientists found remains believed to be Caravaggio’s.
- His remains contained high lead levels, and it is speculated that lead poisoning caused both the painter’s erratic behavior and his death.
- Caravaggio was never famous in his lifetime; however, many saw his work realized that they embodied something amazingly new.
- Caravaggio’s style spread rapidly throughout Europe after his death.
- Other spellings of his name searched for on this site have included: Caravagio or Carravagio.
- Name: Michelangelo Merisi (Michele Angelo Merigi or Amerighi) da Caravaggio
- Birth: 1571 – Milan, Duchy of Milan, Spanish Empire
- Died: 1610 (aged 38) – Porto Ercole, Grand Duchy of Tuscany
- Movement: Baroque
Caravaggio: His life and style in three paintings
A Tour of Artists and their Art
- Sandro Botticelli (1445 – 1510)
- Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519)
- Albrecht Durer (1471 – 1528)
- Michelangelo (1475 – 1564)
- Raphael (1483 – 1520)
- Titian (1488 – 1576)
- Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525 – 1569)
- El Greco (1541 – 1614)
- Caravaggio (1571 – 1610)
- Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 1675)
- Canaletto (1697 – 1768)
- Francisco Goya (1746 – 1828)
- J.M.W. Turner (1775 – 1851)
Caravaggio: A collection of 79 paintings
- Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 – 1867)
- John Everett Millais (1829 – 1896)
- Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917)
- Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906)
- Claude Monet (1840 – 1926)
- Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919)
- Mary Cassatt (1844 – 1926)
- John William Waterhouse (1849 – 1917)
- Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890)
- John Singer Sargent (1856 – 1925)
- Gustav Klimt (1862 – 1918)
- Rupert Bunny (1864 – 1947)
- Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944)
- Goyō Hashiguchi (1880 – 1921)
- Amedeo Modigliani (1884 – 1920)
- Artists and their Art
The Life of Caravaggio
“If Caravaggio were alive today,
he would have loved the cinema;
his paintings take a cinematic approach.”
– Martin Scorsese
Photo Credit 1) Ottavio Leoni [Public domain]