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Letters by a modern St. Ferdinand III about cults

Gab@StFerdinandIII -

Plenty of cults exist - every cult has its 'religious dogma', its idols, its 'prophets', its 'science', its 'proof' and its intolerant liturgy of demands.  Cults everywhere:  Corona, 'The Science' or Scientism, Islam, the State, the cult of Gender Fascism, Marxism, Darwin and Evolution, Globaloneywarming, Changing Climate, Abortion...

Tempus Fugit Memento Mori - Time Flies Remember Death 

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Caravaggio, A life sacred and profane  Andrew Graham-Dixon - fantastic.

Merging art history with early modern realism.

by StFerdIII

Beheading of St. John the Baptist

Caravaggio was the greatest of the Baroque painters and one of the best ever. The Baroque era, of the late 16th and 17 centuries initiated after the Council of Trent, was in part an artistic, architectural and spiritual counter-assault against the rather rough, crude, and simple forms of free-will denying Protestantism. The Baroque changed art and history. It pushed biblical allegories and moralities deep into the face of the art viewer. It was sweaty, fleshy, earthy, realistic, naturalistic and at times quite unsettling. The Baroque was real life married to the theology of Catholicism.

The Catholic world was not only fighting what it viewed as internal heresay in Europe, but also the Moslem Jihad. Throughout the 1550s and 1560s the Christian powers of the western Mediterranean were threatened by the forces of Islam – led first by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman ‘The Magnificent’, and then by his successor, Selim II. The bitter and bloody conflict between Muslim and Christian reached a climax at exactly the moment of Caravaggio’s birth in 1571. Lepanto was a naval victory for the Papal-led Catholic league, and stopped the Moslem advance into the Western Mediterranean. 6 years before a garrison of 2.000 Knights of St. John, along with 6.000 Maltese militia beat back an assault by some 50.000 Turks at Malta saving in essence, Italy from becoming a Turkish satrap and from providing a platform for another Moslem invasion of Spain, recently consolidated under Catholic control in 1492. Without the church, its moral, political and monetary power, and without the animation of Christian resolve and surety, Europe or large parts of it, would have been Moslem by 1600. Only modern self loathing and quite ignorant Marxists are titillated or bored by such a possibility.

Judith beheading Holofernes

Why Caravaggio ? This book explains why this man is an emblem of his age, and how he changed the direction of art forever. It is an excellent historical study as well as an artistic analysis. The author is proficient in late medieval [Renaissance], and early modern history, as well as being an expert in art. The power of the book is that Caravaggio the man, and his art, is put into the context of history and time. It is dense and extremely impressive. Caravaggio was a contrast – both sacred and profane – a man of his time, a study in psychology as well as artistic genius, a man so deeply divided it is a wonder he could paint anything at all.

BORN: September 29, 1571, Milan, Italy.

DIED: Died: July 18, 1610, Grosseto, Italy, on a beach, from injuries suffered in an attack.


Caravaggio was orphaned at age 11, in the same year he was apprenticed to the painter Simone Peterzano of Milan.

He did not learn much from Peterzano, disappearing into the underworld of Milan's gangs and prostitutes for 5 or so years, before resurfacing in Rome.

In 1595, he began to sell his pictures through a dealer, Maestro Valentino, who brought Caravaggio's work to the attention of Cardinal Francesco del Monte.

In 1597, he received a commission for the decoration of the Contarelli Chapel in the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome.

From 1600-1606, Caravaggio had many encounters with the law on account of his violent nature. In 1606, he killed Ranuccio Tomassoni in a brawl between rival pimps.

From 1606-1609, he fled justice by traveling to Naples, then Malta and Sicily. He became a Knight of Malta only to lose his knight-ship after attacking another knight.

He sought a pardon from the Pope, only to receive it three days after his death on July 18, 1610.

Graham-Dixon on Caravaggio's contribution to art:

Rubens, Velàzquez and Pietro da Cortona all echoed his compositions or copied his devices and traits. Within a generation, entire schools of so-called Caravaggisti established themselves in both Italy and the Netherlands. Partly perhaps because of the location of the French Academy in Rome, at the top of the Spanish Steps, and within easy walking distance of so many of his most important altarpieces, he would have an especially powerful impact on French art.

...the force of revelation, by Caravaggio’s Roman altarpieces. The violence and drama of the works of Rubens’s early maturity, such as The Massacre of the Innocents, would be deeply touched by Caravaggio’s influence. Through Rubens, that influence would be transmitted to Flanders and Holland, where an entire school known simply as ‘the Caravaggisti’ would come into being. The development of Rembrandt’s subtle, shadowy realism would be part of the same story..

Tintoretto’s brooding, monumental religious canvases, full of dramatic contrasts of light and dark – lightning strikes of supernatural illumination that shiver like spiritual electricity – are the only late sixteenth-century Italian paintings to prophesy elements of Caravaggio’s own mature style.

The Doubting Apostle Thomas

Caravaggio painted the fleshy tones and grimaces of the real world, especially the poor:

Caravaggio had lived much of his life close to the margins of society, surrounded by poor and ordinary people. He painted them, staging the stories of the Bible with their bodies and their faces. He painted for them and from their perspective. In the end he died among them and was buried among them, in an unmarked grave. He was thirty-eight years old.

...This is why Caravaggio’s paintings have a destructive effect on pictures by other artists hung anywhere near them in art galleries. They exert such a sensually charged, magnetic attraction that they seem almost as though backlit, or somehow illuminated from within, while the pictures around them – even those of great artists, whether Rembrandt or Poussin or Velàzquez – appear by comparison to recede, to retreat from the gaze.

Graham-Dixon on Caravaggio's dark, sinister, immoral world in 16th/early 17th century Roma:

Rome under Clement VIII was the artistic capital of Europe. The artists of the city were so numerous – at a rough estimate, there were 2,000 of them, out of Rome’s total population of around 100,00014 – that they had their own quarter. This was an area of a little more than two square miles situated, roughly, between the Piazza del Popolo and the Piazza di Spagna.

They [Caravaggio and his followers] behaved like modern, debased versions of the ‘veray parfit gentil knights’ of the old romance tradition. Instead of wandering through the forests of Arthurian legend, doing battle with monsters and saving damsels in distress, they frequented the streets and taverns of Rome, picking fights with pimps and vying for the favours of whores. This topsy-turvy translation of courtly manners and codes of honour, from high-flown literature to the most ordinary milieux of modern life, was by no means restricted to Italy.

During his own fourteen years in Rome, Caravaggio would become embroiled in more than his fair share of assaults, disputes and bloody vendettas. He was a violent man, but it is important to remember that he lived in a violent world. Throughout seventeenth-century Italy – throughout seventeenth-century Europe – an inflammatory code of honour prevailed. The fama of an individual, by which was meant not only his fame or reputation but also his good name, was paramount.

Caravaggio's powerful themes and talent and how he rose to the top:

Costantino Spata played a vital role in Caravaggio’s career. It was through him that the painter came to the attention of one of his most important supporters, his principal patron during his early years in Rome. Baglione tells the story in a few words: ‘This was the means by which he met Cardinal del Monte, an art lover, who invited him to his home.’40 Cardinal del Monte would nurture Caravaggio through the next few crucial years of his life. Not only would he house, clothe and protect him, but he would introduce him to a circle of the most powerful and influential collectors in Rome, and negotiate the difficult waters of higher Church patronage on his behalf. Del Monte, the ‘art lover’, whose palace was just around the corner from the Piazza di San Luigi, was one of Spata’s clients.

St Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy is a crucial painting in Caravaggio’s early development. It announces the stark tenebrism that would become the hallmark of the painter’s revolutionary style – that ‘boldly dark and black colouring,’ in Bellori’s words, ‘which he used abundantly to give relief to the forms’. It also displays for the first time Caravaggio’s lifelong fascination for the strongest and most intense strains of Counter-Reformation Catholic spirituality. It expresses the idea of a transfiguring love of Christ, a love so deep that it becomes a form of mystic self-annihilation.

The pictures for the Contarelli Chapel were compellingly original public works of art. At a stroke they brought Caravaggio’s new style of painting to a much broader public. His matchless sense of drama and his use of extreme contrasts of light and dark would prove intoxicatingly influential. The painting of such seventeenth-century masters as Rembrandt in Holland, Georges de La Tour in France, Ribera in Spain, even the work of much later Romantic artists such as Géricault and Delacroix, all are inconceivable without the pictorial revolution first unleashed by Caravaggio in his two pictures of scenes from the life of St Matthew. It is no exaggeration to say that they decisively changed the tradition of European art. But in their own time, they were controversial.

Caravaggio was a pimp as well as a painter: is also possible that he meant to imply that she was one of several prostitutes controlled by Caravaggio – and that the painter, therefore, was a part-time pimp. Pasqualone’s remarks offer an explanation for much of Caravaggio’s seemingly random nocturnal escapades and unpredictable behaviour. His life becomes no less violent, but more logical. Caravaggio certainly used whores as models. He painted Fillide Melandroni and, quite possibly, Fillide’s friend Anna Bianchini. He painted Lena the streetwalker, and according to Giulio Mancini, who knew Caravaggio well, at least one other prostitute modelled for him in Rome. Perhaps he and his friends just happened to know a lot of whores and courtesans – after all, such women tended to move in the same circles and live in the same places as painters, sculptors and architects.

Why pasta became an Italian staple [after killing a rival pimp, Caravaggio flees to Napoli]:

...workers from the countryside continued to flow into Naples, so the new regulations simply meant that living conditions became ever more cramped. It has been estimated that some 21,000 people were squeezed into every square mile of the city. Even the physical appearance of the population was transformed by this wrenching demographic shift. Pressure on the food supply meant that for the majority pasta replaced vegetables and fruit as the staple diet. Despite the best efforts of the government, many people lived in a state of permanent semi-starvation. Neapolitans became shorter in height and notably more prone to the illnesses and deformities caused by malnutrition: goitres in the throat, rotten teeth, rickets and scurvy.

Entombment of Christ

Caravaggio's salacious bi-sexuality replete with a close boyfriend [who also modelled for him]:

Caravaggio’s alleged homosexual proclivities. He was known to be an impetuous man who followed his passions. He kept company with whores and courtesans, such as Fillide Melandroni, and on the evidence of his paintings he was equally alive to the physical charms of men. Caravaggio and Francesco Boneri, alias Cecco, were close: Cecco stayed with him even after he was obliged to leave Rome in 1606. There is a good chance that the rumours were true and that Caravaggio did indeed have a sexual as well as a working relationship with ‘his owne boy or servant’.

The family of the man Caravaggio murdered get their revenge:

Having got his revenge, Roero meticulously covered his traces. Even Baglione, who plainly knew so much, never discovered the name of Caravaggio’s assailant. ... Caravaggio seems never to have fully recovered from the attack at the Osteria del Cerriglio [in Naples, after he fled from Malta and Sicily]. Crippled and perhaps partially blinded by his injuries, he went into the limbo of a long convalescence. On Christmas Day 1609, two months after the assault, Mancini’s correspondence with his brother Deifebo communicated a solitary scrap of inconclusive rumour: ‘It’s said that Caravaggio is near here, well looked after, also that he wants to return to Rome soon, and that he has powerful help.’133 Negotiations for a papal pardon may have been progressing, but in truth Caravaggio was nowhere near Rome. Mancini had been misinformed. The painter was in Naples, presumably at the Colonna Palace at Chiaia, fighting for his life. He would remain there for at least six months.

The story of Caravaggio so well-told by Graham-Dixon is an astonishing one. A man of rare talent, who combines biblical themes and mores with his own reality of street life and the natural world around him, was certainly one of the most important painters in history. But he was a profane and insidious man. A brawler, good with a sword, a swaggering arrogant, a pimp, a user of prostitutes, a man who never married, a bi-sexual, lascivious, degenerate, often drunk, and quite impossible to deal with. He wasted his money, never acquired assets, was never more than a few days away from starvation it appears, and was so touchy about status, that he would brawl in public with anyone over the least provocation. He was in short a very immoral unbalanced character.

Yet he somehow produces some of the greatest paintings in history. Dark, foreboding, wordly, oddly obsessed with beheadings and neck cutting, bloody, usually violent and sensual [who else would use a prostitute to pose as the model for Mary, so buxom and curvaceous ?]; Caravaggio married realism with moral themes and important lessons that one finds in the bible. It is a truism that every object in a Caravaggio has its purpose. Nothing is wasted and nothing imposed that does not have merit. He was one of the most innovative producers of light and dark contrasts, and real earthy visages and expressions.

The great intriguing aspect of Caravaggio is this – how did a man so profane and immoral, produce such startlingly high quality pictures about morality, duty, faith and love ?


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