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Caravaggio

Judith and Holofernes, 1599 (oil on canvas) by Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da (1571-1610) Palazzo Barberini, Rome, Italy
Caravaggio’s art is made from darkness and light. His pictures present spotlit moments of extreme and often agonised human experience. A man is decapitated in his bedchamber, blood spurting from a deep gash in his neck. A man is assassinated on the high altar of a church. Faces are brightly illuminated. Yet always the shadows encroach, pools of blackness that threaten to obliterate all.
Caravaggio’s life is like his art, a series of lightning flashes in the darkest of nights. He was one of the most original artists ever to have lived, yet we have only one solitary sentence from him on the subject of painting – the sincerity of which is, in any case, questionable, since it was elicited when he was under interrogation for the capital crime of libel.

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Caravaggio: a Life Sacred and Profane by Andrew Graham-Dixon: review
Much of what is known about him has been discovered in the criminal archives of his time. He lived much of his life as a fugitive, but is caught, now and again, by the sweeping beam of a searchlight.
Caravaggio throws stones at the house of his landlady and sings ribald songs outside her window. He has a fight with a waiter about the dressing on a plate of artichokes. He taunts a rival with graphic sexual insults. He attacks a man in the street. He is involved in a fatal swordfight.
Anyone attempting a biography of Caravaggio must play the detective as well as the art historian. His life can easily seem merely chaotic, the rise and fall of an incurable hot-head, a man so governed by passion that his actions unfold without rhyme or reason.
But there is a logic to it all and, with hindsight, a tragic inevitability.

Judith and Holofernes

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June 28, 2010 - Posted by | art, middle ages |

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