Italian painter



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Italian painter
Average: 4.5 (2 votes)

Birth Date

September 29, 1571

Death Date

July 18, 1610

Arty Fact

mhoutzager's picture


Caravaggio was a drunken, brawling SOB who was always in trouble with the law.

Fortunately for him he was an incredible painter. One of the best and known for painting intense, dramatically lit scenes. He influenced great artists like Rembrandt van Rijn and Peter Paul Rubens. Unfortunately, some say his violent mood swings and debauchery were caused by lead poisoning from his paints.

While in Rome, he painted young scantily clad boys for the very gay Cardinal Francesca Maria Del Monte. The Cardinal gave him lodging in his Palazzo, and protected Carravaggio from the police. Carravaggio liked women though, including prostitutes, whom he used as models and also for...other purposes. One day he was playing tennis with Ranuccio Tomassoni, the pimp to two of his favorite prostitutes, Anna Bianchini and Fillide Melandroni. It is not known if the ensuing fight was about the tennis game or about the fact that Caravaggio was apparently unsated by Anna and Fillide, and had been making moves on Tomassoni's wife. It ended with Caravaggio killing Tomassoni and fleeing from Rome to Naples escape prosecution.

Naples worked out for a while, but Caravaggio got into trouble with the law there as well and fled to Malta. There he became a Knight of Malta, but after yet another fight and some prison time, he was expelled from the Knighthood for being a "foul and rotten member" and fled to Sicily. He asked the pope to pardon him for the murder of Tomassoni, but died three days before the pardon arrived. Isn't it ironic? Doncha think?

It is not known how he died, but there is speculation that he was weak from wounds suffered in his last drunken brawl and pneumonia finished him off. 


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Here is what Wikipedia says about Caravaggio

Michelangelo Merisi (Michele Angelo Merigi or Amerighi) da Caravaggio (/ˌkærəˈvæi/, US: /-ˈvɑː-/, Italian pronunciation: [mikeˈlandʒelo meˈriːzi da (k)karaˈvaddʒo]; 28 September 1571 – 18 July 1610) was an Italian painter active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily from the early 1590s to 1610. His paintings combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, which had a formative influence on Baroque painting.

Caravaggio employed close physical observation with a dramatic use of chiaroscuro that came to be known as tenebrism. He made the technique a dominant stylistic element, darkening shadows and transfixing subjects in bright shafts of light. Caravaggio vividly expressed crucial moments and scenes, often featuring violent struggles, torture and death. He worked rapidly, with live models, preferring to forgo drawings and work directly onto the canvas. His influence on the new Baroque style that emerged from Mannerism was profound. It can be seen directly or indirectly in the work of Peter Paul Rubens, Jusepe de Ribera, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and Rembrandt, and artists in the following generation heavily under his influence were called the "Caravaggisti" or "Caravagesques", as well as tenebrists or tenebrosi ("shadowists").

Caravaggio trained as a painter in Milan before moving in his twenties to Rome. He developed a considerable name as an artist, and as a violent, touchy and provocative man. A brawl led to a death sentence for murder and forced him to flee to Naples. There he again established himself as one of the most prominent Italian painters of his generation. He traveled in 1607 to Malta and on to Sicily, and pursued a papal pardon for his sentence. In 1609 he returned to Naples, where he was involved in a violent clash; his face was disfigured and rumours of his death circulated. Questions about his mental state arose from his erratic and bizarre behavior. He died in 1610 under uncertain circumstances while on his way from Naples to Rome. Reports stated that he died of a fever, but suggestions have been made that he was murdered or that he died of lead poisoning.

Caravaggio's innovations inspired Baroque painting, but the Baroque incorporated the drama of his chiaroscuro without the psychological realism. The style evolved and fashions changed, and Caravaggio fell out of favor. In the 20th century interest in his work revived, and his importance to the development of Western art was reevaluated. The 20th-century art historian André Berne-Joffroy stated, "What begins in the work of Caravaggio is, quite simply, modern painting."

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Caravaggio.

Comments (10)



Lorna Wright

Well... I love Caravaggio. What's with all the hate? He depicted the poor and downtrodden. He painted dirty feet and dusty taverns. He actually painted a dark-haired Mary, for goodness' sake! A crazy notion, I know, when we all know Mary was Scandinavian.

pogo agogo

Yup, those Scandinavian Middle Eastern biblical figures....

pogo agogo

Caravaggio was a freak of nature


Caravaggio...never liked the guy. But hey to each their own, am I right?


What does it say when art historians can't agree whether you died of syphilis or from an infection caused by wounds inflicted on you either buy vengeful Knights of Malta or by friends of a person you killed when you attempted to castrate them?

Lauren Dare

That you lived a super interesting life!


i wonder how much bad behavior from this time can be attributed to lead poisoning...

pogo agogo

For like every artist ever!


Well he had to flee Milan for Rome at age 21 for getting into a fight where he insured a policeman, so clearly he was a troublemaker before a lifetime of working with lead paint...