Michelangelo Merisi was a pretty wild guy: he left a terrific trail of police records (he got jailed, from what I can tell, a few times a month), and a vast array of tremendous paintings: monumental, emotional, stark, revolutionary. To this day his work remains a profound influence on art and aritsts. Some argue lineage is perhaps strongest among contemporary photgraphers and cinematograhers, for whom his dramatic lighting is a mainstay.1 Others go for broke: Gilles Lambert calls him “perhaps the most revolutionary painter in the history of art,”2 and the French art critic André Berne-Joffroy, in a frequently-quoted remark, declares that “…what begins in the work of Caravaggio is, quite simply, modern painting.”3
So, Michelangelo Merisi was so badass that today we know him only by a name that isn’t even really his (he was sort of from Caravaggio, and sort of not). He liked sex and booze and olive oil and hookers and gambling and swords and sex. He hung out with his best bros and got into swordfights and got picked up for chillin’ (and other things) with weapons and sans permit. Basically, Caravaggio was a rock star, and we’re still rocking out to him now. Baglione, his greatest rival (and the guy who wrote his first biography, because of course your greatest rival is the best person to write your bio, amirite??) would probably be beyond disappointed that we only really know him today for his biographies (and his enmity with Caravaggio)–it’s Caravaggio who is hailed as the greater painter. (His art, along with his crazy life, is timelined on Baroque and directly at “From Darkness.”)
Not only was Caravaggio badass, but he travelled, literally, all over Italy. How much all over Italy did he go? Well, this map is a very rough estimate of his travels–and he visited nearly all these cities more than once!
- Freidlaender, Walter. Caravaggio Studies. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1955. Print.
- Graham-Dixon, Andrew. Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane. London: Allen Lane, 2010.
- Lambert, Gilles. Caravaggio. Trans. Chris Miller. Ed. Gilles Néret. Köln: Taschen, 2000.
- Robb, Peter. M: The Man Who Became Caravaggio. Potts Point, New South Wales: Duffy & Snellgrove, 1998. Print.
- Robb, Peter. Street Fight in Naples: A City’s Unseen History. 2010. London: Bloomsbury, 2011.
- Corradini, Sandro, and Maurizio Marini. “The Earliest Account of Caravaggio in Rome.” The Burlington Magazine, 140:1138 (1998): 25-28. JSTOR. Web. 26 April 2015.
Newspapers and Popular Sources
Not too many long-dead artists still have breathless articles written about them!
- “Caravaggio Death Certificate Found.” BBC News, 21 December 2001. Web.
- Carter, Imogen. “Caravaggio: How He Influenced My Art.” The Guardian, 24 July 2010. Web.
- Kington, Tom. “The Mystery of Caravaggio’s Death Solved at Last—Painting Killed Him.” The Guardian 16 June 2010. Web.
- Milner, Catherine. “‘Red-Blooded Caravaggio Killed Love Rival in Bungled Castration Attempt.’” The Telegraph 2 June 2002. Web.
- Watkins, Ally. “Caravaggio’s Rap Sheet Reveals Him to Have Been a Lawless Sword-Obsessed Wildman, and a Terrible Renter.” Blouinartinfo 24 February 2011. Web.
- Willey, David. “Caravaggio’s Crimes Exposed in Rome’s Police Files.” BBC News: 18 February 2011. Web.
1 In “Caravaggio: How He Influenced My Art,” The Guardian‘s Imogen Carter interviews artists (primarily photographers and cinematographers) about Caravaggio’s importance to their work.
2 Lambert, Caravaggio, 7.
3 Berne-Joffroy, qtd. in Lambert, Caravaggio, 8.