Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

The stormy life of the painter Michelangelo Merisi began in northern Italy near Milan. At 13 he was apprenticed to a local artist, but his career began in Rome when he was about 21. He became known as Caravaggio, after the town where he was born.

Caravaggio at first painted small still-life pictures--fruits and flowers--and simple pictures of ordinary boys who were sometimes dressed to look like figures from ancient myths. Caravaggio's talent soon attracted the attention of a wealthy patron, Cardinal del Monte, who became his protector.

In 1599, Caravaggio began painting large religious pictures for churches in Rome. These paintings depicted religious figures as ordinary people of his own day. This concept was so shocking at that time that some of Caravaggio's paintings were rejected by the priests. But other people thought that he was the greatest painter of his time--an opinion shared by art historians today.

Caravaggio had a violent temper. In 1606 he killed a man and fled Rome. He went to Naples and continued to paint, then went to Malta to join the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, a military and religious order. But he got into trouble and again had to escape. After painting in Sicily and Naples, Caravaggio heard that he was to be pardoned by the pope. He set out for Rome, only to die on the way, on July 18, 1610.

Howard Hibbard
Author, Caravaggio

 

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