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Mr. Burgher's Art Facts

Michelangelo Caravaggio

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About Mr.B

Michelangelo Caravaggio: Sept.28,1571-July 18,1610...Italy

If you are looking for a truly badass artist, Michelangelo Caravaggio is your man. He was the founder of the Realistic Baroque, in a career that only lasted thirteen years. He was born Michelangelo Merisi, but took the name of the city of his birth, Caravaggio. His father, Fermo Merisi was an architect, but Michelangelo was orphaned by the time he was eleven after his father's death. He became the apprentice to Simone Peterzano (who was an apprentice to Titian) in Milan, Italy. He got into trouble after a fight ended with a prostitute's face being slashed with a knife. He would not snitch to the police who had assulted her, so he went to prison in Milan. The twenty-one year old artist moved to Rome, Italy in 1592.

Artistically, Caravaggio was phenomenal. He cought the eye of Cardinal Maria del Monte who was looking for an artist that had talent to work at the Vatican. He was offered room, board, a studio, and a source of patronage. He worked there for six years. He mastered the use of light and shadow to create a dramatically psychological tone to his works far before his time. This technique is known as chiaroscuro. There were several artists that followed his methods, adopted his style, and studied under him. He prefered to use live models for his paintings, however, he was looked down on for using the low lifes of society for his models.  Many were upset seeing prostitutes playing the role or major religious figures in his paintings. One of the more notorious prostitutes in Rome was Fillide Melandroni: whom he painted as St. Catherine of Alexandria and Mary Magdolane. He also used himself as a model in the paintings (he was the face of Goliath in his 1605 painting, David with the head of Goliath). He prefered to paint on canvas rather tham wood.

Like another Michelangelo;
Michelangelo Bunarroti, Michelangelo Caravaggio never stepped down from a fight. While he was in Rome, he was reprimanded for fighting with another artist, wounding a soldier, throwing a plate of artichokes in the face of a waiter, throwing stones at Roman Guards, shooting a gun in town, and smashing the windows out of his landlords house after she locked him out for not paying his rent for six months. On another occasion he attacked a notary named Mariano Pasqualone with a hatched at the Piazza Narvona. It seems as though Pasqualone had a thing for Caravaggio's girlfriend who "worked" at the piazza. Pasqualone spoke with her mother about her relationship and asked to marry her. The mother told Caravaggio, and he went nuts with the hatchet, but Pasqualone lived. Because of his position with the Vatican, he always got off. May 29, 1606, Caravaggio was furious with Ranuccio Tomassoni over the disputed score of a tennis match. He proceeded to stab the man in the lower abdomine, who ended up dying. Caravaggio was wounded as well. Caravaggio knew this was extremely bad, so he fled to Naples to stay with a friend for nine months, did a little painting, and then moved on to Malta. He was welcomed into Malta and was allowed into the Order of Malta as a Knight of Justice. Along with his title he was given a gold collar and two slaves. The welcome wore off when his past was discovered and he assaulted the Judge that called him out. He was put in the local prison. Pope Paul V had pardoned his crimes, but Caravaggio needed documentation to prove it. He was a caged beast in that cramped prison and he thought that there was little chance of getting out soon, so he escaped and fled to the island of Sicily for a year. He soon went back to Naples, where he was a physically and mentally a broken man. In Naples he was attacked. Was he jumped by an angery artist? Pasqualone? The Tomassoni family or the Order of Malta? No one ever admited to knowing. But what we do know is that he was beaten so badly news that he died went to Rome. He was able to resume his travels north on July 10, 1610. He was taking a boat to Rome when he was discovered and arrested at a port town of Palo with everything he owned on board the boat. He paid his bail, but the boat had just left, along with everything he owned. Trying to catch up with the boat he traveled to Port' Ercole, where he collapsed on the beach. He was foung but died a few days later of malaria and exhaustion at the age of thirty-eight. The documentation showing the forgiveness of his crimes by the Pope arrived three days after he had died.


Mr. Mike Burgher * PO Box 247 * Dallas Center, Iowa. 50063