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Artist Files: Caravaggio

May 26, 2010

The Taking of Christ 

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.

David with the Head of Goliath. 1606.

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.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. dollyasylum permalink
    May 26, 2010 10:54 pm

    Woah! That is crazy. Well, HE was crazy, by the sounds of it! What an action packed life he led!

    That’s a really interesting point you raised here. I bet if todays media had the job of going back in time and recording the lives and times of artists nothing would be left out! We’d be seeing all manner of exploits spashed across magazing covers, and there would probably be videos on youtube of Monet getting pissed and yelling at flowers and shit. Or something. I’m sure they’d dig up plenty though, because most artists are BONKERS! Some in a good way, but yeah…i can’t help wondering what dirty little secrets history might hold concerning some of the more “wholesome” artists!

    • Trixie permalink*
      May 27, 2010 11:27 am

      Oh wow, the image of Monet pissed and yelling at flowers made me spit out my beverage. True story.

      As for the dirty little secrets, they’re what I’m trying to find out, but short of going to Italy and reading every court record, I’m running out of places to look. Any ideas?

  2. dollyasylum permalink
    May 27, 2010 5:16 pm

    Gawsh, I have no idea where to look for that kinda stuff, but i hope your search goes well, because these are fascinating little tidbits of info! It’s so much more fun to read about a baaaaad person from history than a good one! Actually that would make one hell of a cool book! Villains of Art History EXPOSED. Maybe some day you will get to visit Italy and do just that!

    Sorry about the beverage! The worst thing is when it shoots out of the nostrils. I had that happen once when eating really spicy soup. My sister made me laugh just as i was downing a spoonful, and it really stung my nose! That, coupled with the fact that i was also choking on a half swallowed noodle, gave my sis an extra feeling of accomplishment .

    • Trixie permalink*
      May 28, 2010 9:49 pm

      Your sister should go into the assassin business. They’ll never see it coming.

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