17th C Baroque Art Caravaggio_cc

Caravaggio (1569-1609)
Michelangelo Meresi CaravaggioBoy Being Bitten by a Lizard c1600oil on canvasItalian Baroque

Tenebrism means using light as a spotlighting effect in a murky or dark scene.

ala prima-directly onto canvas; paints directly form life


Form: This allegorical portrait incorporates a low key or earth toned palette combined with a very close point of view. Caravaggio demonstrates a good mastery of the human face as well as chiaroscuro . 

According to the Brittanica, 

chiaroscuro (from Italian chiaro, "light"; scuro, "dark"), which is technique employed in the visual arts to represent light and shadow as they define three-dimensional objects.

Caravaggio also uses an intense spotlight on his face while the rest of the picture plane is murky surrounding him. This is called tenebrism and it is a way of creating a focus on a particular element in a work and also gives the work a sense of heightened drama.

The painting also feels like an immediate kind of "snapshot" of a young boy dressed in neoclassic clothing caught at the instance when a lizard bites his fingers. The immediacy of the painting is complimented by the direct gaze and the facial expression of the figure. This painting appears to be painted directly from life without using any previous studies or drawings. This is called ala prima- (in the first) which means painting directly from observation onto canvas.

This painting also demonstrates Caravaggio's skill beyond his ability to paint the human form. The clear vessel of water is what is referred to as an artist's conceit or concetto (italian for conceit) because painting a transparent vessel is one of the harder things to paint. Caravaggio also has a fine command of painting drapery.

Even though the figure in this painting is placed in the visual center of the picture plane the light which rakes in from the upper left hand corner creates a strong diagonal across the picture plane. The use of a diagonal in the composition of the picture plane is a very Baroque device.

Iconography: Caravaggio was a rather outrageous and controversial man. Many of his paintings demonstrate a rebellious and often ribald sense of humor. This is an allegorical portrait of lust. The young boy is probably the type of young man that Caravaggio held as the object of his desire. Young male prostitutes were fairly common in cities during this time (as they are now) and it has been suggested by some sources that Caravaggio was a homosexual and a pederast. The lizard hanging from the boy's finger may represent the cost of the lust and the cherries may be a reference to the concepts concerning "forbidden fruit" or possibly even virginity.

Context: Caravaggio was an,

Italian baroque painter, who was the most revolutionary artist of his time and the best exemplar of naturalistic painting in the early 17th century. Originally named Michelangelo Merisi, Caravaggio was born September 28, 1573, in the Lombardy hill town of Caravaggio, from which his professional name is derived. Orphaned at age 11, he was apprenticed to the painter Simone Peterzano of Milan for four years. At some time between 1588 and 1592, Caravaggio went to Rome and worked as an assistant to Giuseppe Cesari, also known as the Cavaliere d'Arpino, for whom he executed fruit and flower pieces (now lost). Caravaggio's personal life was turbulent. He was often arrested and imprisoned. He fled Rome for Naples in 1606 when charged with murder. Later that year he traveled to Malta, was made a knight, or cavaliere, of the Maltese order. In October of 1608, Caravaggio was again arrested and, escaping from a Maltese jail, went to Syracuse in Sicily. He died on the beach at Port'Ercole in Tuscany on July 18, 1610, of a fever contracted after a mistaken arrest.
source of quote

Caravaggio, Basket of Fruit c. 1597
Oil on canvas, 46 x 64 cm
Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan
Italian Baroque 

Form: This is a still life painting which is painted from an extraordinary point of view. The basket and its contents are depicted from eye level. The virtuosity of how realistically the surfaces and details of the basket, its contents, the moisture on the fruit and even the hints of decay are expressions of Caravaggio's skills. It's interesting to note that this is often referred to as the completely dedicated still life painting of its kind since Pompeii (79 CE).

Iconography: Paintings like this one depicting fruit is symbolic of the pleasures of every day life and perhaps of the delicacies one might desire. Fruit was not available all year and it is one of the fleeting pleasures. The depictions of fruit and other delicacies, such as Herakleitos' Unswept Floor (fig 6-58) are references to the wealth of the patron and the skill of the artist.

The depictions of the decay caused by the worms in the apple and on the leaves may be a memento mori. That although these are delicacies and treasured parts of enjoying life, sometimes such things are transitory and fleeting.

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