Caravaggio was a genius – that’s undisputed.
He was also a killer and a street gang menace (and a terrible tenant).
Caravaggio lived a hot violent fist of a life.
Brief – full of angst – upset – blood – death and a total revolution in painting on a scale only rarely approached in other periods in the history of art.
Michelangelo Merisi – who got his nickname from having grown up in Caravaggio near Milan – is one of just a handful of artist who completed changed art – shifted the continuum in a new direction.
Caravaggio was a game-changer – invoking a level of naturalism – drama – dramatic use of lighting and surprising interpretation to religious scenes that turned the art world on its head.
But while his art is rightly so the subject of enormous quantities of scholarly and popular writing (I once heard that his ‘Boy Bitten by a Lizard’ is the most-written-about painting in history) – in preparation for a talk at the National Gallery in Ljubljana – Slovenia I was struck by the fact that Caravaggio was perhaps art history’s most notorious criminal.
We often hear of how he was a difficult character and of course know that he fled Rome after having killed a rival – Ranuccio Tomassoni – in a fight (possibly over a tennis match – certainly due to gang rivalries and probably because they were both in relationships with the same women- a prostitute) and spent the remainder of his brief life traveling in hopes of a papal pardon for the murder – rarely is his life as a criminal the focal point.