Caravaggio: Artist Portrait

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

Born 1571. Died 1610.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio Biography

Italian Baroque painter Caravaggio is among the most influential and revolutionary artists in the canon of Western art history. Reknowed for combining intense psychological insight with dramatic lighting and color, he interpreted biblical scenes and figures in contemporary surroundings, attitudes and dress. His heightened artistic ability was matched only by his turbulent persona of tempestuous behavior, violence and crime.

Born Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio in 1571, the artist supplemented his early training under the Milanese painter Simone Peterzano with visits to see the works of Giorgione, Titian, and da Vinci. He eventually moved to Rome to secure prestigious commissions, where he would develop his career, producing major works of the Baroque period. His paintings from the turn of the century, such as The Calling of Saint Matthew (1599-1600), exemplify the intense tenebrism, or dramatic chiaroscuro for which Caravaggio is known. The painting’s sharp lighting intensifies the immediacy of the scene and the psychological depth of the characters. Works such as Madonna di Loreto reflect Caravaggio’s integration of saintly figures into his contemporary world. In contrast to the traditional representation of Mary in her home surrounded by angels, Caravaggio painted the Virgin as a common woman receiving poor, dirty pilgrims into her home. Thus works such as the Loreto Madonna reflect the efforts of the Counter-Reformation to welcome believers from any social or economic status back into the fold of Christendom. The highly theatrical nature of his works inspired later major artists known as the Caravaggisti, including Artemesia Gentileschi, Geroge de la Tour and Carlo Sellitto.

Caravaggio stands as one of the major masters of all of Western art history, and his works constitute the most visited galleries of the world’s major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum, New York; the Louvre, Paris; the National Gallery, London; and the Galleria Borghese, Rome. His works sell for hundreds of millions of dollars, and continue to captivate contemporary viewers around the world.

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Museums with Works by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

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