Tuesday, June 17, 2008

And He Was Caravaggio's Superhero, Too

SPRINGING OFF OF YESTERDAY'S POST ABOUT MY PORTRAIT OF MICHELANGELO, I have some thoughts about another Michelangelo: Michelangelo Caravaggio.

Caravaggio had no shortage of skeletons in the closet. More than likely, that is also a literal statement. He once killed a man over a disputed call in a game of tennis. Now that's a temper. Consequently, he spent the next few years in Naples, where he fled after being exiled from Rome. During that time, he painted religious theme after religious theme: something he was not naturally apt to do, but he wanted to get back to Rome where the big money was. The only way he could set foot in Rome was to appease those Cardinals who might put in a good word for him with the Holy See, who would perhaps forgive his murder, and he knew they wanted religious art, so he gave it to them.

All of this really doesn't have anything to do with the real point here, other than to bring up ways that Caravaggio, (who was and is a superhero as an artist) was a complete loser who still managed to do amazingly spiritually and religiously charged works. But I'd say it was almost accidental that his stuff is so meaningful. He supplied the techne, the Holy Spirit supplied the meaning. Caravaggio is the number one reason that I find it generally useless to study the life of the artist in order to understand his art. When he wasn't using his favorite hooker for a model of one of the saints, he was making narcissistic remarks about his own greatness.

'The Entombment', or deposition, is among those he did prior to the exile, and is interesting for many reasons, but foremost on my mind right now is the way that he paid homage to his favorite painters in this painting, including Raphaello and Michelangelo, the latter being Caravaggio's namesake. Of course, Caravaggio's favorite painter was Caravaggio, and so he put his own face as Christ's. This was not abnormal for Caravaggio to do. Just take a look at DAVID WITH THE HEAD OF GOLIATH. That's pretty morbid painting yourself as a decapitated giant.

It's a good thing the works stand on their own. In fact, studying the mindframe and intent of this artist would actually lead you away from the true merit of his works. Needless to say, that's a bad thing.

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