’s Life Essay, Research Paper
Much of the art of the Renaissance was
extremely religious in its nature. The paintings from this time are
almost entirely scenes from the Bible including: the enunciation of the
Virgin Mary, depictions of the infant Jesus Christ, the crucifixion of
Christ, and numerous other examples of Christian iconography. One
would imagine that virtuous, upstanding artists would have created such
angelic works of art. The stunning displays of morality, as seen in the
works of many Renaissance painters, are not always a reflection of the
Two examples of artists whose paintings
did not reflect their lifestyles were Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio
and Fra Filippo Lippi. Both of these artists created works that portrayed
Christian iconography with great aesthetic expertise. Among these
works are Caravaggio?s The Inspiration of Matthew and Lippi?s Madonna with
the Child and two Angels. Fra Angelico was another artist from this
same time period. He is quite a contradiction compared to his contemporaries.
Angelico led a very pure life following the Christian morals of the time,
unlike his peers.
Caravaggio, while a great artist,
had a stormy personal history. Very little is known about his life
until it began to be documented in the criminal courts. His teens
and early twenties were scattered with bouts of abject poverty, until he
became renowned as an artist. From this point on, his name appears
every few months on the police blotter. He became well known for
picking fights, threatening people with swords and being arrested for such
deeds. He was sued for libel and built up enemies to the point where
his murder was attempted. He was found in bed with wounds around
his neck and left ear. Because of this event, Caravaggio was jailed
in his house for an entire month. He was forbidden to leave without
written permission from the governor of Rome. However, it seemed
nothing could keep Caravaggio out of trouble. In the month of May
1606, he killed a man who had won a bet over a ball game that afternoon.
After this event, he was left wounded himself. He fled Rome, going
to a patron’s house and eventually moved on to Naples. At the age
of thirty-five, he left Naples and went to Malta, where he was well received
for this renowned artwork. However, this situation did not last long.
He got in a fight and was imprisoned. Shortly after arrest, he escaped
and finally returned to Rome, where his reputation was still well known.
His enemies had not forgotten him and he was nearly killed several times.
He had been allowed hardly more than a decade of maturity as an artist,
but he had established himself in history a position among the handful
of painters whose originality made them genius.
Caravaggio?s rebellious life seems
quite different from the moral stories his paintings portray. The
artwork called The Inspiration of Matthew is a prime example of how his
life is not part of his art. This painting originally showed Matthew
as a laborer. His face and garments were of a common man and his
bare feet were dirty as that of the worker Matthew really was. Because
of his plain appearance church officials rejected this work. To replace
this painting, Matthew was painted again but in the usual saintly robe.
This compromise to the church is just one example of his emotional detachment
from the making of his works. This painting has a great amount of
Christian imagery involved in it. The most obvious is the fact the
painting contains an apostle and an angel in it. This type of work
was created for the specific purpose of promoting the church. Meanwhile,
Caravaggio, even though he was a great artist and designed religious paintings
specifically for the church, led a life not suitable to the religious practice
Another painter who seemed to be
quite a hypocrite in his painting was Fra Filippo Lippi. He was orphaned
as a child and put under the care of Carmelite monks. He took the
vows of the order at the age of fifteen, and at the age of fifty eloped
with a young nun and raised a family. Much took place in these thirty-five
years, including numerous transfers between Catholic institutions.
Lippi was appointed head of several convents and was quickly removed from
office because of his sexual appetite within the nunnery. When it
came about that he finally eloped, he had convinced at least five nuns
to run away with him. He lived with two of them and was accused of
immoral behavior by the church of Florence. Through out all of this
activity, Lippi never lost any support from his patronage and still maintained
his fame as an extraordinary artist.
Fra Filippo Lippi never allowed his
adulterous life as a monk affect the content of his work. Nor did
fifteenth-century Italy make any kind of connection between his creative
achievement and his personal life. Lippi?s artwork was heavily religious
in nature. It is possible to say that the gentle Madonnas he painted
greatly influenced Leonardo?s sibylline females. This can be seen
in the painting Madonna and Child. Lippi remains most famous for
his Madonnas, which makes one wonder, when considering his personal life,
if he preferred to paint women in bible scenes. One could speculate
that he liked this best because of his same love of women over the church
in personal life. Lippi is yet another painter whose content is not
a reflection of his personal life.
Not every painter?s life is as detached
from their work as Caravaggio?s and Lippi?s. Another Italian monk,
named Fra Angelico did not follow the same path as these two artists.
Fra Angelico?s life was the epitome of purity, according to historical
record. He was ordained as a monk around twenty-five years of age.
Fra Angelico?s life was one of the utmost Christian morality. He
lived life as a monk and did not have the tendencies of Lippi and Caravaggio
for women and violence. He exemplified what a monk was expected to
be. Fra Angelico?s life, by every evidence, ran its course without
a question, in uninterrupted service to God.
The nickname Angelico was given
to him after his death and could not be more appropriate, since many would
say no one has created art so angel-like and pure. One of the most
common figures in his art were angels. Fra Angelico?s angels sing
the praises of the Lord as if there were no Satan. His paintings
of virgins are seen with the dignity of women, but with the innocence of
young girls. Fra Angelico?s purity in life is most definitely seen
in his artwork. He truly had the brush stroke of God.
The artwork of the church was created
by a large number of painters with extremely varied lives and morals.
Every painter of this time can be said to portray God?s creation as it
was intended, but few can it be said allowed their own lives to effect
their artwork. While the majesty of God can be seen in all of their
works, few could say that each artist?s life and values are shown.