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National Gallery of Victoria
Michaelangelo Merisi da CARAVAGGIO
Italian 1571-1610
Boy peeling fruit (c. 1593/94)
oil on canvas
65.0 x 52.0 cm
Courtesy of the Dickinson Group Darkness and Light: Caravaggio and his world

Michealangelo da Caravaggio

There is also a certain Michelangelo da Caravaggio, who is doing extraordinary things in Rome...he does not study his art constantly, so that after two weeks of work he will swagger about for two months with his sword by his side and his servant following him, going from one tennis court to another, always ready to argue or fight, so that he is impossible to get along with...Yet as for his painting, it is very delightful and an exceptionally beautiful style, an example for our young artists to follow.
Carel van Mander, The Netherlands, 1604, Caravaggio's first biographer.

In 1592 the ambitious young artist and aspiring courtier Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio left Milan for Rome. He quickly established himself there and earned a reputation as a radical artist and innovator. He spurned the accepted painting traditions and methods, in particular espousing life and real people as the models for all art. Caravaggio also struck a chord with his particular use of light and shadow which he used to intensify the drama of his scenes.

Caravaggio spent much time in the company of men who, like himself, were belligerent by nature. And finally he confronted Ranuccio Tomassoni; a very likable young man, over a disagreement over a tennis match. They argued and ended up fighting...Michelangelo had wounded him high up on the thigh and he died.
Giovanni Baglione, Rome 1642 Artist and biographer.

All writers on Caravaggio allude to his violent personality, and that it probably affected his art. However, Caravaggio lived in violent times when personal honour and that of your patron was readily defended with force, which, according to police records, Caravaggio did on a regular basis. Caravaggio was part of a nobleman's household, and therefore had the right to carry a sword in public.

Michaelangelo Merisi 
Italian 1571-1610
Crowning with thorns (c. 1602/05)
oil on canvas
127.0 x 166.0 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Gemaldegalerie (inv 307)

The image of Caravaggio as a passionate rebel, who led an exciting and dangerous life, has appealed greatly to modern audiences. His work too seems evocative of the drama he experienced. This exhibition reflects key themes in Caravaggio's art which were taken up enthusiastically by his followers.


NGV: Art like never before