Italy is celebrating Caravaggio’s 400th birthday. It started with the discovery of the master’s bones and continues with the hoped for authentication of a rediscovered work as described in the Washington Post:
The “Martyrdom of St. Lawrence” belonging to the Jesuit order has not yet been authenticated as a work of Caravaggio, but appears to have all the hallmarks of his paintings including dramatic lighting effects, the Osservatore Romano said.
“Certainly it’s a stylistically impeccable, beautiful painting,” the newspaper said in an article that will appear in its Sunday edition. “One can’t but be reminded of works like the Conversion of St. Paul, the Martyrdom of St. Matthew and Judith and Holofernes.”
Italy is marking the 400th anniversary of Caravaggio’s death by throwing churches and an art gallery open all night this weekend. Major exhibitions have also been held in Italy this year to honor the artist.
Unfortunately, much has been made of the idea that the painter was an outsider and a rogue. The Financial Times tries to put some of those stories in context:
The pivotal event of Caravaggio’s life, the murder of Ranuccio Tomassoni, was itself dictated by the logic of vendetta. The origin of the quarrel between the two involved a woman, almost certainly Tomassoni’s (probably unfaithful) wife Lavinia. The fight between Caravaggio and Tomassoni was a prearranged duel, in the course of which the painter not only killed his enemy but may also have sought to castrate him.
There are subtle traces of the same vendetta mentality in Caravaggio’s paintings. One of his greatest works, “The Conversion of St Paul” in Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome, was painted in direct competition with Annibale Carracci, whose saccharine “Assumption of the Virgin” still hangs over the altar. To stress his disdain for Carracci’s brand of vapid magnificence, Caravaggio contrived a cunning insult: the rump of St Paul’s proletarian carthorse is pointedly turned to the face of Carracci’s Madonna.