Convicted murderer, drunk, deemed "foul and rotten", but protected by wealthy patrons
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Works by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (10)view all
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.