Caravaggio : biography
On the 29th of September in 1571 a future great artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was born in an Italian Province of Bergamo. They say that the place of his birth was a town Caravaggio, but it was also possible that he was born in Milan. Caravaggio’s father, Fermo Merisi, was a manager of a town’s owner, marquis Francesco I. In January of 1571 he married a daughter of a local landowner Lucia Aratori – it was the second marriage of Fermo. Caravaggio’s father died of the plague, when his son was five years old, and according to several sources, he left good heritage to his family.
We don’t know much about Michelangelo Merisi’s early years, but there is a document, according to which at the age of thirteen he became a pupil in a studio of a Lombard artist Simone Peterzano, who was very popular at that time. The boy was to study for four years, but he left the studio earlier. All that biographers know about years, that the boy spent in Milan, is that the future master acquired brilliant technical skills of painting and had a very violent character. The next official source of his biography is a document about the trial, that was instituted in Rome by a certain Leonora Palelli against Caravaggio’s friends on the occasion of physical injuries and offenses. Caravaggio was a witness at this trial.
To all appearances, Caravaggio went to Rome in 1590, sold off the part of father’s belongings, which his brother and sister had shared. It can be supposed, that this departure was an escape from justice after some crime – an aggressive and mocking character of the young artist provided him with many enemies. But he also had a friend – an architect Onorio Longi, a faithful partner in different fights and adventures.
In Rome Caravaggio stayed at some artist for the first time, and soon he got ill and found himself in a hospital for the poor with a fever and spent there three months. In hospital hу painted “Yong sick Bacchus”, one of his most popular paintings, which is considered to be Caravaggio’s self-portrait. In 1953 his friend Onorio advised him to live with an academic artist Giuseppe Cezari, who had the Roman Pope’s favour. Cezari’s studio was a peculiar gallery, and many beginner artists found clients there. Caravaggio was soon noticed too – even the owner of the studio, who highly appreciated the talent of his pupil, bought several paintings. The young artist’s success was also promoted with the fact that Roman artists always chose Rafael and Michelangelo’s genres – huge frescos with religious or historical themes. So-called “paintings for a easel”, which were appreciated by Roman collectors, were practically absent, and Caravaggio started to paint them.
In 1595 an important eveте happened in the artist’s life – he moved to the house of a cardinal Francesco Del Monte, who was a patron of the Saint Luke Academy and pulled strings to many masters. Caravaggio paid for his hospitality with his paintings, and in that way Del Monte got the biggest part of the artist’s first masterpieces.
In the early Caravaggio’s creations a hand of the unbeaten master of genre paintings can be already seen. His characters were ordinary soldiers, poor people, card players and fortune-tellers, his compositions were strange and seemed lacking in plot, but full of symbols and allegories. Caravaggio’s models at that time were young people from the cardinal’s court, and especially the artist’s friend Mario Minniti. By the end of the century Caravaggio started to paint religious paintings, including a new interpretation in them – he placed the Bible characters in real scenes, premises and landscapes, obliterating the borderline between the human and the divine. Such masterpieces as “Rest on the way to Egypt” and “Magdalina” were born from this mixture, these paintings placed the artist on the same raw with famous Roman masters. The only decorative creation of Caravaggio was a wall painting on the ceiling with oils in one of the rooms of the cardinal Del Monte, which was made, obviously, at his request, and the artist couldn’t refuse his patron. It is curious, that modern collection don’t have Caravaggio’s sketches for his paintings – the artist either destroyed them immediately or didn’t even make such sketches.
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