True to Life? Caravaggio in Rome
Frank Dabell, independent art historian
Before Caravaggio arrived in Rome in the 1590s, art based on direct observation – the depiction of objects, humans, and animals – was well established. The legacy of Leonardo da Vinci stimulated the young artist in Milan, and he sought to paint dal vero – from life – while bearing in mind the expectations of beholders and the ever-expanding Roman Church in the era of Shakespeare and Galileo. Caravaggio’s years in Rome – our focus here – saw him move from simple genre scenes to grand narratives. We will study his fascination with light, space, and time in his first public work, the St Matthew Stories, other sacred episodes (the Arrest of Christ, Supper at Emmaus), lives of saints (Crucifixion of St Peter and Conversion of Saul, St Mary Magdalen, St Jerome, St Francis) and mythological subjects (Bacchus, Medusa).
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