Biography of Michelangelo Merisi
Caravaggio was an Italian baroque painter who was
the best exemplar of naturalistic painting in the early 17th century.
His use of models from the lower classes of society in his early
secular works and later religious compositions appealed to the Counter
Reformation taste for realism, simplicity, and piety in art. Equally
important is his introduction of dramatic light-and-dark effects,termed
chiaroscuro, into his works.
Originally named Michelangelo Merisi, Caravaggio
was born September 28, 1573, in the Lombardy hill town of Caravaggio,
from which his professional name is derived.
Caravaggio's personal life was turbulent. He was
often arrested and imprisoned. He fled Rome for Naples in 1606 when
charged with murder. There he spent several months executing such
works as the Flagellation of Christ (San Domenico Maggiore, Naples),
which were crucial to the development of naturalism among the artists
of that city. Later that year he traveled to Malta, was made a knight,
or cavaliere, of the Maltese order, and executed one of his few
portraits, that of his fellow cavaliere Alof de Wignacourt (1608,
Musée du Louvre).
In October of 1608, Caravaggio was again arrested
and, escaping from a Maltese jail, went to Syracuse in Sicily. While
in Sicily he painted several monumental canvases, including the
Burial of Saint Lucy and the Raising of Lazarus. These were multi-figured
compositions of great drama achieved through dark tonalities and
selective use of lighting. These works were among Caravaggio's last,
for the artist died on the beach at Port'Ercole in Tuscany on July
18, 1610, of a fever contracted after a mistaken arrest.
the Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio Gallery >>