06/04/2010

CARAVAGGIO - A LIGHT IN THE SHADOW



An hour and a half standing and queueing but it was utterly worth it. I've finally seen the several paintings by Caravaggio, coming from museums and private collections all over the world,  in this amazing exhibition organized at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome. My friend and I didn't realize we had been standing that long, actually. We had so much to talk about!I can't tell you exactly why,  but my favourite painting was this "modest" St. John the Baptist (a recurrent figure in Caravaggio's works) on the left . This brooding young man caught my attention and touched my heart more than other huge impressive paintings.


From Michael Kimmelman's essay published in The New York Times on March 22nd : "Caravaggio exemplifies the modern anti-hero, a hyperrealist whose art is instantly accessible. His doe-eyed, tousle-haired boys with puffy lips and bubble buttocksh look as if they've just tumbled out of bed, not descended from heaven". 
The essay also states:
"By at least one amusing new metric, Michelangelo's unofficial 500-year run at the top of the Italian art charts has ended. Caravaggio, who somehow found time to paint when he wasn't brawling, chasing women (and men) murdering a tennis opponent with a dagger to the groin, fleeing police assassins or getting his face mutilated by one of his many enemies, has bumped him from his perch".

Do you agree with that  statement? Is Caravaggio making tourists in Rome forget about Michelangelo? What I can say is that the exhibition of his two dozen of paintings at Quirinale is mobbed and endless scrums of tourists have been lining-up to see the Caravaggios in the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi and the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo in these Easter holidays.
The exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale is set to offer the public a new and stimulating opportunity to penetrate the very essence of the "terribly naturla" painter, his revolutionary adn astonishing naturalistic criterion and his stubborn questioning deference to the depiction of reality which was solitary in its poetic greatness. The project has been designed to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the great artist's death.

What can I say about our great artists? It's difficult to choose one for all. Let's say that I agree with something I read in another essay about Caravaggio:
"We respect Leonardo for his genius, we admire Michelangelo for his grandeur but we love Caravaggio".
No need to choose only one, no need to explain why.
I now  want to leave you with one of my favourite Caravaggios which was not exhibited at the Scuderie. I love this painting: Santa Caterina.
If you plan to come to Italy and to Rome, you can't miss this unique exhibition that will be open until June 13th.


P.S. Caravaggio self portrayed himself in more than one of the paintings above. Can you recognize him?

8 comments:

Luciana said...

I really like Caravaggio. And I really don't think you can say that Michelandelo or Da Vinci were better than him, they are just different... Unfortunately I won't be in Italy till that date to see it! :(

mjmbecky said...

I'd give anything to come and see these! I don't want to add to the tourist chaos though. :) You're so lucky to be surrounded by such beauty and history. I so love that you share that with us. I think I agree with Luciana too, that they all have their own styles, but each so beautiful!

Alexa Adams said...

What I have missed most about Italy in the decade since I've been there is the amazing quantity of art, everywhere you go. While I feel totally incapable of proclaiming which of the great Italian artists was the best, I can assert that I have never seen anything that compares to Michelangelo's sculpture, anywhere. He made life breath through cold stone.

I wish I could be there to marvel at Caravaggio's beautiful paintings. Sigh.

Karen said...

Lovely review of the Exhib, MG.
But HUMPPH! This is not fair! :-P
Most of your favourite pictures, as you already know, are also my favourites: the brooding St. John, the Saint Catherine, the St. Matthew(s) at S. Luigi dei Francesi, and so on. How can it be, I wonder? ;-)
xx K

lunarossa said...

I adore Caravaggio too. I so envy you, MG, what a fantastic exhibition this must be! Unfortunately I won't be able to come to Rome by the 13th June. It would be lovely though! But thank you for posting this and the beautiful paintings! Ciao. A.

phylly3 said...

Beautiful paintings! How lucky you are to be able to see them. Is that the artist in the middle background of the painting of the boy (2nd picture) and also on the far right of the 4th picture?

JaneGS said...

Light in shadow, indeed. The pictures are just luminous, but dark, and definitely compelling. The woman with the spinning wheel is exquisite. Glad you got to view the exhibit--too bad it's not going to be open longer, not that I have immediate plans to visit Rome, but hope springs eternal.

Karen said...

@JaneGS:
Er... maybe the picture's resolution isn't good enough, but... that is not a spinning wheel!
Saint Catherine has been martyrized with a breaking wheel, and therefore that intrument of torture is always depicted close to her.
You can read her story here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_of_Alexandria