Artist Files: Caravaggio
Out of all the artists I’ve been researching lately Caravaggio is one of the only artists whose misdeeds are considered relevent to his works. I’ve been scouring biographies for tales of sex, crime and violence and apart from Cellini (who we’ll save for another time) and Caravaggio, the crimes of other artist’s, their twisted personalities and assorted acts of violence are very rarely mentioned. If the artist produces ‘dark’ and haunting work, and they happen to be violent then the two things are considered to be linked. But, as in the case of Bernini, if the works of the artist are pretty and light and attractive then their violent streaks aren’t even mentioned.
Uncool writers of art history, uncool.
Back to Caravaggio. The man had a life. A crazy crime filled and rumor fueled life that ended as dramatically as it was lived.
Rap Sheet: He was arrested over 12 times between 1600 and 1606. There were fights, concealed weapons, insults, aggression and violence. He murdered a man over tennis in 1607, went on the run ending up in Malta. Then he insulted some Knights of Malta, and went on the run again this time to Sicily.
In 1610 The Pope pardoned Caravaggio allowing him to finally return to Rome. Tragically on his way back to home and freedom after being on the lam for years Tuscan authorities arrested him in a case in a case of mistaken identity. THEN upon his release he discovered that all his paintings and possessions were gone (perhaps they made it to Rome) and finally he caught a mysterious illness.
Destitute, alone, feverish and delusional Caravaggio collapsed on the beach at Porto Ercole. He died in hospital a few days later at the age of 38.