Caravaggio's Rome: A Chiaroscuro Tour
Making a pilgrimage to visit all the works by Caravaggio in Rome, Italy
• Context: Caravaggio's Mean Streets (Santa Maria del Popolo, Sant'Agostino, San Luigi dei Francesi)
• Rome Art History Tour: Walking in Caravaggio's Footsteps (Santa Maria del Popolo, Sant'Agostino)
• Private Tour: Borghese Gallery and Baroque Rome Art History Walking Tour (Galleria Borghese, Sants Maria del Popolo)
• Context: Galleria Borghese (Galleria Borghese)
• Skip the Line Borghese Gallery and Gardens Tour (Galleria Borghese)
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Caravaggio's Deposition in the Vatican Museums' Pinacoteca. Caravaggio (1571-1610) was probably the most influential painter after Michelangelo on Italian painting style as it transformed from the formal, neo-classical Renaissance into the more earthy, vibrant, and melodramatic baroque style.
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• Caravaggio's Rome The fact that Caravaggio's real name actually was "Michelangelo" is just a coincidence.
(Like many painters, Michelangelo Meresi was known by the name of his hometown: Caravaggio, a small town near Milan).
Caravaggio's painting: Birth of the baroque
Caravaggio pioneered the chiaroscuro style of painting (sometimes called "tenebrism")—contrasting dark, even black areas of deep shadow with planes of color light by strong light and highlights, showing this off to great effect in the wrinkles on faces and folds in clothing.
He painted in manner that was at once intensely realistic and naturalistic, yet also exaggerated and emphasized—sort of a heightened, hyper-realism. The influence of his patented style would echo down the next several centuries, greatly informing the works of Bernini, Ribera, Rubens, Rembrandt, and a host of others.
Whereas it had been mildly scandalous when Renaissance painters first started casting Tuscan peasants in the choirs of angels and groups of monks and Biblical bystanders of their frescoes, it was downright outrageous when Caravaggio used prostitutes to pose for his Madonnas and street hustlers for his saints.
Partly this was down to using the cheapest models possible, but they were also probably people Caravaggio happened to know.
Caravaggio's life: The original bad boy artist
Caravaggio was a hard-living man, always getting into trouble with drinking, gambling, brawling, sword fighting, and whores (both male and female—and it was decidedly not OK to be gay in a 16th-century Rome ruled by the church). In fact, he ended up in Rome after he had to leave Milan in 1592 following "certain quarrels."
Even having big-time patrons like the Cardinal Scipione Borghese couldn't save him after he murdered a young man in a street brawl in 1606. He fled Rome and became an itinerant painter, moving first to Naples, where the influence of his style pretty much defined Neapolitan painting for centuries to come, then to the protection of the Knights of Malta (he had to leave after another fight in 1608), then to Sicily before making his way back up to Naples.
Caravaggio also amassed many enemies, and had to flee Naples after an attempt on his life (and, yes, another brawl) in 1509. He ended up in the scruffy town of Porto Ercole on Monte Argentario, an island-like peninsula in southern Tuscany, drinking himself into a stupor and waiting for his allies in Rome to try to get him a pardon on the old murder rap.
Caravaggio died, anonymously on a tavern table, of sunstroke after a walk on a brutally hot day. His body was tossed into the pile of a pauper's pit grave at the edge of town. He was 38 years old.
Caravaggio's major works in Rome
- Galleria Borghese (Madonna of the Serpent; Young Bacchus, Ill; David with the Head of Goliath, others)
- Santa Maria del Popolo (The Conversion of St. Paul, The Crucifixion of St. Peter)
- Vatican Museums - Pinacoteca (Deposition from the Cross)
- Capitoline Museums (Gypsy Fortune-Teller, St. John the Baptist)
- Sant'Agostino (Madonna del Loreto)
- San Luigi dei Francesi (The Calling of St. Matthew, The Martyrdom of St. Matthew, St. Matthew and the Angel)
- Palazzo Corsini (St. John the Baptist)
- Palazzo Barberini (Narcissus, Judith beheading Holofernes, St. Francis in Meditation)
- Galleria Doria Pamphilj (Mary Magdalene, Rest on the Flight into Egypt, Young St. John the Baptist)
- Take a Caravaggio tour: Take a tour of Caravaggio sights:
Early Baroque painter, Michelangelo Merisi (1573-1610), better known as Caravaggio, left an indelible mark on the world of art; and Rome is fortunate to contain a large selection of his works. Many know him only as a controversial artist who fled Rome after committing murder, but his art stands alone in its quality and originality. For some, Caravaggio and his influence defines Baroque Italian art. This walk, normally led by an art historian, explores the nature of Caravaggio's art in the context of its time...
Daring and innovative or famed yet troubled? However you look at Italian artist Caravaggio, his artwork remains fascinating to all. Caravaggio spent much of his life in Rome, and now the city is littered with his masterpieces and artistic treasures. Your guided Rome walking tour takes you to top Rome attractions featuring must-see Caravaggio paintings, including beautiful churches and monuments. Hear interesting theories on this intriguing artist before relaxing at a wine bar with fellow art-lovers from your tour...
This walk is an in-depth examination of the Galleria Borghese taken in the company of an art historian who can unfold for you the layers of meaning—social, political, and artistic—of one of the greatest private art collections in the world. Commissions and acquisitions of pieces by the likes of Titian, Caravaggio, Raphael and Bernini made the Borghese the premier collectors of their day and their former suburban palace turned private museum is now one of the most important and certainly one of the most elegant museums in Rome...
One of Rome's richest and most interesting villas, the Borghese Gallery houses a vast and diverse collection of sculptures and paintings produced by masters such as Bernini, Canova, Caravaggio and Titian. Truly a magical setting in which the beauty of the artworks, fountains and monuments commune with the rich and diverse flora of the vast surrounding park. In all a true pleasure for the senses...
Your walking tour with a private guide who specializes in art history starts at the Galleria Borghese, the beautiful palace where Cardinal Scipione Borghese lived with his famous art collection in the heart of Rome's most beautiful park, the Borghese Gardens. You will see Bernini's famous statues of Apollo and Daphne, David, the Rape of Proserpine and Canova's reclining nude of Paulina Borghese. Among the collection are several paintings by Raphael, Titian and Caravaggio. After touring the gallery, you'll take a walk through the gardens to reach Piazza del Popolo. Here you'll tour the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, with two of Caravaggio's most famous compositions...
- Guided art walks in Rome
- Michelangelo's Rome
- Bernini's Rome
- Rome's top sights
- Museums and art galleries in Rome
- Churches in Rome
This material was last updated April 2013. All information was accurate at the time.
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