Caravaggio Essay, Research Paper
I was orphaned at the age of 11 and subsequently spent four years as apprentice to Simone Peterzano in Milan before going to Rome in 1593, where I was employed my the Mannerist painter Giuseppe Cesari, for whom I painted fruit and flower pieces. My years with Giuseppe allowed me to develop my style as a realist and, I attempted to paint what was actually there in front of me, not what someone thought should be there. Its like I’ve said before, “It takes as much hard work to do flowers as it does a human figure.” This job wasn’t the most economically sound however, I moved into a cosmopolitan society called Campo Marzio. This wasn’t a nice place to live, it was a decaying neighbourhood of inns, eating houses, temporary shelters, it was appalling, I was virtually without means. At this point in my life I felt hopeless, I was in utter despair, I moved from one unsatisfactory employment to another, the cycle seemed endless. Finally, in 1595 I was at my wits end and I decided that I would try freelance work. I began to paint compositions of my own decisions. I wanted to concentrate on painting common subjects, I often used young men from the street as models for my work. With such a resource at hand, why look to biblical figures and ideals put forth by society? With the help of a dealer named Meastro Vaneltino, I sold some of those paintings and with Valentino’s help, I caught the attention of Cardinal Frencesco Del Monte. Soon after, I was invited to receive board and lodging and a small pension in the house of the Cardinal. Under the Cardinal, I completed the decoration of the Contarellis Chapel in 1602. It was after the completion of this that I had a swarm of orders for pictures, private and ecclesiastical. However, this prosperity didn’t go undisturbed. I was imprisoned in 1603 due to the complaint of another painter and, was only free due to the help of the French Ambassador. In April of 1604 I threw a plate of artichokes at a waiter, and then some stones at the famous roman guards. The latter resulted in a second arrest, and a subsequent arrest due to a “misuse of arms”… I was forced to flee Rome for a time as I wounded a man in defence of my mistress. And finally, Ranuccio Tomassoni! He wouldn’t listen to reason, and well… I killed him over a tennis score dispute. I assumed that yet again the Roman authorities wouldn’t be please with my actions and, I fled to Naples after staying with a relative in early 1607. I remained in Naples for a while, completed a few works and lived in peace. Later that year I travelled to Malta, I was received well by the people, I worked hard and completed one of my most important works, “The Beheading of St. John the Baptist”. St. John was the patron saint of the knights of Malta, and of the Cathedral. I began with a large canvas, approximately 12′X17′ (This being the largest canvas I worked on). I wanted a simple composition where emphasis would be placed on the decapitation itself. I muted intensity in all but the focal subject matter in order to further this emphasis. I created the illusion of a dense atmosphere, and with a single spot-light source, illuminated the focal matter. By illuminating only the subject, I created a sense of drama and emphasis while maintaining a sense of balance and unity. Within that cluster of subjects, I wanted a focus to be first on the pointing index finger of the warden who directs the operation. I wanted to place an emphasis on the body Saint John as it is over-life size, and the only horizontal figure. From the centre of the warden’s finger, the action fans out – to the executioner’s left hand, holding Saint John’s partially severed head in place like a butcher in an “abattoir” while he reaches with his right for his dagger to finish the process off neatly; to the platter, held low by Salome in anticipation of receiving the head; to the horrified old woman. Finally, I wanted the viewer to look past the “deadly line of the glittering blade at the pathos” of Saint John’s painfully bound body. A moment before he was a seeing, hearing, feeling, thinking human being like the others; now he is reduced to a mere fleshly carcass. On July 14, 1608, I was received into the order of Malta as “Knight of Justice”; soon afterward however news of my crimes in Rome must have arrived at Malta as I was expelled from the order and imprisoned. I managed to escape and flee once again. I took refuge in Sicily, landing at Syracuse in October 1608, restless and fearful of pursuit. I took up life there for a while, painting amidst all my instability and humiliation. After being attacked, wounded and subject to fever, I sailed for Rome as, I was aware of appeals to the Pope for my pardon. However, I was arrested by mistake and, detained in prison. Upon release I discovered that the boat that was to take me home had set said will all my belongings. Caravaggio collapsed at the site of the departing boat, it seems that he could no longer bare the misfortune and exhaustion as he died of malaria a few days later.