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Entries in Proto-Baroque (7)


Caravaggio: Humanizing the Divine

Caravaggio - The Stigmatization of Saint Francis - c. 1596 - Oil on canvas - 36 7/8 x 50 5/16 in (92.5 x 127.8 cm) - Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford (click photo for larger image)Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (c. 1572-1610) was arrogant, rebellious and a murderer. His short and tempestuous life matched the drama of his works. Characterized by their dramatic, almost theatrical lighting, Caravaggio's paintings were controversial, popular, and hugely influential on succeeding generations of painters all over Europe.

In the painting featured here, St Francis reclines in the arms of a winged angel. The eyes of the saint are closed and the look of intensity upon his face suggests that he is experiencing deep emotion or ecstasy, having just received the stigmata.

Despite the presence of the angel, the ground underneath the saint indicates that he is not in heaven, but very firmly upon earth.

The figures are lit by an unidentified source of light, cast upon the face and hands of St. Francis and throwing one half of the body and face of the angel into shadow. This technique (tenebrism) is discussed elsewhere on What About Art?


The Annunciation

Fedricio Fiori Barocci - “Annunciation” - 1582-84 - Oil on canvas, 248 x 170 cm - Pinacoteca, Vatican (click photo for larger image)Federico Fiori Barocci (c. 1526-1612) was a leading painter of the Central Italian School—and an important precursor of the Baroque. He created this “Annunciation” or the chapel of Francesco Maria II della Rovere, duke of Urbino. In 1797, the altarpiece was seized by French troops and transferred to Paris, where it remained until 1815. “Probably because of damage caused on its journey to Paris, the panel was first placed on a cloth base, but since this proved too light in weight, it became necessary to transfer it onto a stronger canvas.” A preparatory drawing—completed either by the artist or his workshop—was used to develop a number of copies of this painting. The lilies held in the hand of the Angel Gabriel are one of the most familiar attributes of the Virgin Mary—a symbol of her purity.


Into the Light: Caravaggio

Caravaggio - St John the Baptist - 1610 - Oil on canvas, 159 x 124 cm - Galleria Borghese, Rome (click photo for larger image)Caravaggio - St John the Baptist (detail) - 1610 - Oil on canvas, 159 x 124 cm - Galleria Borghese, Rome (click photo for larger image)Italian painter Caravaggio (born Michelangelo Merisi) (1571-1610) developed the revolutionary technique of tenebrism (the dramatic, selective illumination of form out of deep shadow). It would become a hallmark of Baroque painting, although Caravaggio’s approach was far removed from what would become the Baroque. Scorning the traditional idealized interpretation of religious subjects, Caravaggio took his models from the streets and painted them realistically—causing a quite a sensation and challenging traditional expectations. The painting featured here shows St. John the Baptist as soberly thoughtful. The body is delicate and the expression is dreamy. The saint is also quite young, which represents a departure from many other interpretations of him.


Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and His Legacy

Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy - Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio - 1595 - Oil on canvas - 36 3/8 x 50 1/4 in. (92.4 x 127.6 cm); Frame: 48 x 62 1/2 x 4 1/4 in. - Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund. - Image: © Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art“The stories of Caravaggio's life are legend, more myth than history, describing traits of personality, including passion and brutality, that came to describe the unique qualities of his work.”

An exhibition currently on view at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) is made up of 56 works in all, including a record eight works by Caravaggio himself. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610) was one of the most famed artists of his day.

A proto-Baroque painter, Caravaggio developed the revolutionary technique of tenebrism, or dramatic, selective illumination of form out of deep shadow, which became a hallmark of Baroque painting. Scorning the traditional idealized interpretation of religious subjects, he took his models from the streets and painted them realistically.

This exhibit will run through February 10, 2013. I suggest that you make a day of it at LACMA--and visit the Stanley Kubrick exhibit while you’re there!


Caravaggio Paintings Discovered? If This Is True--What a Find!

Caravaggio, St Catherine of Alexandria, c. 1598, Oil on canvas, 173 x 133 cm, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid (click photo for larger image)A brief article in “The Telegraph” has announced that “Italian art historians 'find 100 Caravaggio paintings'.” If true, this is an amazing find! Caravaggio was an Italian proto-Baroque painter (not Renaissance, as stated in the article) who developed a technique known as “tenebrism” from the Italian word tenebroso (meaning dark, gloomy and/or somber). Tenebrism refers to the illumination of specific areas in a painting, that emerge from the darkness into the light. It’s a technique that heavily influenced the artists of the Baroque era. The discovery is said to be works from Caravaggio’s earlier works. “The historians apparently managed to keep their research a secret for two years, but on Friday [July 6, 2012) their findings will be published in a lavish, two-volume, 600-page e-book in four languages.” I’d like to believe this is real. You just can’t get too much of Caravaggio!