Posts Tagged ‘Caravaggio Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness

03
Jan
12

Exhibition: ‘Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome’ at the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Exhibition dates: 16th October 2011 – 8th January 2012

.

Observe if you will:

  1. The treatment of the background behind Boy Bitten by a Lizard (1594-96)
  2. The tension of the hands in this painting
  3. The pallor of the skin of Sick Bacchus (1593-94)
  4. The colour of the bunch of grapes in the same painting
  5. The critical distance between the two apricots and the bowed sash resting on the pediment in the same painting
  6. The youthful innocence of the dupe in The Cardsharps (c. 1595)
  7. The deep, foreboding shadows under the eyes of Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness (1604-5)
  8. The astonishingly beautiful skin tones in Gerrit van Honthorst’s Saint Sebastian (c. 1623) and how the blood from the leg wound at left runs in two directions: one direction when Saint Sebastian was standing up, one when he has slumped down. Inspired.

.

Many thankx to the Kimbell Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the artwork in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

.

.

One of the most influential figures in the history of art, Caravaggio (1571-1610) overturned the artistic conventions of the day and created stunningly dramatic paintings, both sacred and secular. This ambitious exhibition explores the profound impact of his work on the wide range of painters of Italian, French, Dutch, Flemish, and Spanish origin who resided in Rome. Arranged by theme, it includes over 50 paintings, with Caravaggio’s compelling images juxtaposed with those he inspired. This is the second largest display of his paintings in North America and only the third Caravaggio exhibition to be held in the United States.

.
Music and Youth

Many of Caravaggio’s early paintings feature handsome youths, whether singly or in groups. He seems to have used the same favorite models repeatedly – and sometimes his own features, which a contemporary tells us he studied in a mirror. The origins of these novel paintings lay in the types of pictures – portraits, still lifes, and allegories – that were painted in a realistic style in the artist’s native Lombardy, in the north of Italy, although he blurred the boundaries between genres to suggest real-life scenes. Caravaggio’s paintings of musicians would have appealed to Roman collectors who were passionate patrons of music, and likely were created to decorate rooms used for performances. They have a dreamy, slightly melancholy air. If the songs are about love, as we can assume they are, they are surely about the painful side of love rather than its joys. Caravaggio’s early paintings of youths are usually scenes of sensual pleasure but with a built-in warning against indulgence, as when a youth has his finger bitten by a lizard lurking in some fruit. He brings us close to his figures, often having them make eye contact with us, and includes lovingly observed still-life details that enhance the naturalism and immediacy of the scene. Even when there is a visitation from the beyond, like the winged Cupid in The Musicians, he treats this in a matter-of-fact way, attentive always to breaking down the boundaries between the painted world and our own. Caravaggio’s musical paintings caught on throughout Europe in the work of his followers, who brought their own innovations to the genre.

.

.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
The Musicians
c. 1595
Oil on canvas
36 1/4 x 46 5/8 in (92.1 x 118.4 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Rogers Fund, 1952

.
In this scene, Caravaggio shows some young musicians preparing for a concert. We are brought very close to the figures, as if we share the same space. Caravaggio breaks down the boundaries between art and life, and our reality and the painted world become entwined. The instruments are modern, but the musicians wear antique-inspired dress. The lute player tunes his instrument, and the horn player (possibly a self-portrait) catches our gaze. Another youth studies the musical score; it is no longer legible, but doubtless featured love madrigals. The winged Cupid with a quiver of arrows who is handling some grapes makes explicit the bond between music and love. Wine, like music, makes the spirits light. This painting belonged to Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, who hosted concerts at his palace and invited musicians to live in his household, along with artists like Caravaggio.

.

.

Theodoor Rombouts (Flemish, 1597-1637)
A Lute Player
c. 1620
Oil on canvas
43 7/8 x 39 1/4 in (111.1 x 99.7 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art. John G. Johnson Collection, 1917

.
Caravaggio’s paintings of musicians inspired Rombouts’s depiction of a musician tuning his lute. His intense expression suggests that he is both listening to the sound and sizing up the viewer, his audience. The vividly described carpet and still-life objects on the table recall Caravaggio’s similar close-up presentations. However, the colorful treatment of the costume and the robust delineation of the objects place Rombouts’s work within traditions of Flemish and Dutch painting. The still life, like ephemeral music, serves to remind us of the pleasures of life, but also that pleasure is fleeting. The artist also alludes to the five senses: hearing (the lute), taste (the tankard), smell (the pipe), sight (the musical scores), and touch (the knife).

.

.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Boy Bitten by a Lizard
1594-96
Oil on canvas
25 5/8 x 20 1/2 in (65 x 52 cm)
Fondazione di Studi di Storia dell’Arte Roberto Longhi, Florence

.
One of Caravaggio’s biographers wrote that “he also painted a boy bitten by a lizard emerging from flowers and fruits; you could almost hear the boy scream, and it was done meticulously.” The picture has suggested various interpretations. As an allegory of touch, it provides the basis for a study of how emotion is expressed physically, and arguably Caravaggio alludes to all the five senses (flowers as smell and so on). With the still life of fruits and roses, common emblems of love, he invokes age-old adages – pain can follow pleasure, and love is a rose with thorns that prick. Poets from Petrarch onward played on the similarity of the Italian words for “love” and “bitter” – amore and amaro – to which Caravaggio adds ramarro (lizard), ingeniously enlarging the joke.

.

.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Sick Bacchus
1593-94
Oil on canvas
Galleria Borghese, Rome

.

.
Cardsharps and Fortune Tellers

The young Caravaggio introduced another new kind of painting to the Roman art world with his scenes from the seamy side of life, its frauds and ruses. He painted these works on a large scale with half-length figures, and they were among his most widely imitated creations. His followers played countless variations on the same themes, trying various levels of subtlety and buffoonery in the humor and facial expressions. These highly animated compositions conjure up an underworld of wily cardsharps, soldiers of fortune, foolish dupes, sensuous and deceitful gypsy women, pickpockets, and thugs. They are based partly on everyday observations in the streets, partly on the stock characters and improvised comedies of the commedia dell’arte, partly on sheer fantasy. In such works, Caravaggio and his followers developed ingenious ways of involving us in the action. We read these amusingly moralizing pictures through gestures and expressions – but to unravel the trickery takes time. Despite being frozen in a static image, the story seems to unfold before our eyes like one of the popular plays that were its inspiration. The artist extends the theme of deception by painting his subjects with such a high level of naturalism that the viewer is duped and astounded by his artistry.

.

.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
The Cardsharps
c. 1595
Oil on canvas
37 1/8 x 51 5/8 in (94.2 x 130.9 cm)
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth

.
The players are engaged in a game of primero, a forerunner of poker. Engrossed in his cards, the dupe is unaware that the older cardsharp signals his accomplice, who reaches to pull a hidden card from his breeches. The fingertips of the cheat’s gloved hand are exposed to better feel marked cards. According to an early biographer, Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, a great patron of the arts, took the young Caravaggio into his household soon after purchasing this picture. It hung along with The Gypsy Fortune Teller in his palace. Together they would surely have reminded the cardinal and his guests of the story of the prodigal son, warning about the perils of greed and fraud. Caravaggio has treated this subject not as a caricature of vice but in a fresh way, in which the interaction of gesture and glance evokes the drama of deception and lost innocence in the most human of terms. He structures the picture to allow us to witness everything, implicating us in the trickery.

.

.

Simon Vouet (French, 1590-1649)
The Fortune Teller
c. 1620
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

.

.
Saints

Caravaggio grounded his saints in everyday reality, indicating their spiritual states by means of natural phenomena, especially light. In his early painting of Saint Francis, he shows the saint’s ecstasy – his mystic identification with Christ – by directing a strong light upon his figure and the consoling angel. God’s grace is signaled by light in other images of the saints, such as the scene of Mary Magdalene’s conversion from her former life of sin. In paintings of Saints Matthew and Jerome in their studies, much emulated in Caravaggio’s circle, light is a metaphor of divine inspiration. Generally the saints seem to be emerging from darkness into light, which adds drama, symbolism, and also a sense of mass – as if they were sculpted, not merely painted. In a break from Roman and Florentine traditions, Caravaggio rejected the practice of refining his composition through drawings before he began to paint and instead worked directly from a live model in the studio, preserving that model’s particular appearance, never making the features or body conform to an ideal of beauty. The effect, central to Caravaggio’s art and that of many of his followers, was startling. At this time, many people believed that the painting of sacred personages such as saints called for a special, elevated style that set them apart from the mundane reality of the here and now. Caravaggio’s radical departure from this principle brought him much harsh criticism. He was accused of merely copying and so failing to capture a higher truth. But others recognized in his work a new kind of religious art that directly engaged the faithful and made old subjects new and alive.

.

.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness
1604-5
Oil on canvas
68 x 52 in (172.7 x 132.1 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri. Purchase William Rockhill Nelson Trust

.
Caravaggio’s practice of painting a live model in his studio brings this young, brooding saint to life – as if his image were inhabited by the model’s being. Ottavio Costa, a Roman banker, commissioned this painting for a chapel on a pilgrimage route in the countryside outside of Genoa, where his family had its origins. We can imagine what a powerful experience it would have been to encounter the image of the scarlet-robed saint there, dramatically emerging from the shadows into a strong light. When Caravaggio delivered the painting, Costa decided to keep it and placed a copy in the chapel. But even the copy proved inspiring. An early guide described how it “moves not only the members of the brotherhood but also visitors to penitence.”

.

.

Gerrit van Honthorst (Dutch, 1592-1656)
Saint Sebastian
c. 1623
Oil on canvas
The National Gallery, London

.

.
The Sacred Narrative

Caravaggio was a masterful storyteller who could bring home the drama and significance of a biblical event with tremendous power. In his scenes from the Old and New Testaments, he created a new kind of painting – dramatic, even theatrical, yet grounded in the observation of ordinary reality – and it proved infectious among his contemporaries in Rome. His approach was to make the scene clear and simple, with the main actors in the drama seen close-up and caught in midaction at a decisive moment, embodying the whole meaning of the event. He played down the setting, sometimes to the point that it is a mere pool of darkness from which the figures emerge. It was the actions and states of mind of the characters in the story that counted, and Caravaggio presented these with sometimes shocking directness and intensity, breaking all the rules of decorum that restrained more conventional painters. He mastered the art of concealing art, re-creating a scene with such a flavor of reality that it comes across as an eyewitness account. It was his power to draw viewers into the emotion and importance of a scene that made his work an essential object of study, even for such an independent genius as the great Peter Paul Rubens.

.

.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Martha and Mary Magdalene
c. 1598
Oil and tempera on canvas
38 1/2 x 52 1/4 in (97.8 x 132.7 cm)
Detroit Institute of Arts. Gift of the Kresge Foundation and Mrs. Edsel B. Ford

.
Martha’s expressive hands, intensely illuminated, underscore her attempt to convert her sister Mary Magdalene from a life of worldly pleasures to one of spirituality. Several details recall Mary’s life of indulgence: the elegant dress, the ivory comb, the alabaster cosmetic jar. The mirror, a powerful symbol of vanity, becomes here an instrument reflecting the divine light that is penetrating Mary’s soul. Martha’s words seem to have been convincing, and her open mouth signals her amazement as she witnesses Mary’s transformation. The orange blossom in Mary’s right hand and the ring on her left indicate her new status as the blessed bride of Christ.

.

.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Sacrifice of Isaac
1602-3
Oil on canvas
41 x 53 1/8 in (104 x 135 cm)
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

.

.

Kimbell Art Museum
3333 Camp Bowie Boulevard,
Fort Worth, TX 76107

Opening hours:
Tuesdays – Thursdays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Fridays, noon – 8 p.m.
Sundays, noon – 5 p.m.
Closed Mondays, New Year’s Day, July 4, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day

Kimbell Art Museum website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

18
Dec
09

Exhibition: ‘Caravaggio – Bacon’ at Gallery Borghese, Rome

2nd October 2009 – 24th January 2010

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610) 'David with the Head of Goliath' c. 1610

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
David with the Head of Goliath
c. 1610
Oil on canvas
125 cm × 101 cm (49 in × 40 in)

 

 

Two of my favourite artists together for the first time!

Individually they are dazzling but the curatorial nous to bring these two great painters together – fantastic.

Imagine going back to the time of Caravaggio – his paintings in the churches of the powerful (not the rich, see, because the rich can never enter the kingdom of heaven) – lit by candlelight, all huge thrusting buttocks at eye level as you enter, the rich velvety colours, the drama, the dirty feet, the voluptuous forms stretched across the canvas.

Now imagine taking Bacon back to the same period. His sinuous, tortured bodies lit by candlelight – no a single electric light bulb (remember!) – innards spreading effusively, effluently along the floor. Can you imagine the gloomy interiors with Bacon’s figures looming out of the darkness? His Head VI screaming in the darkness …

Instinctively, intellectually we know how the paintings of a Baroque artist of the early 17th century affect how we look at the paintings of Bacon. This exhibition offers the reverse, in fact it rewrites how we look at Caravaggio – through the benediction of Bacon. Those rough house homosexuals sure knew a thing or two about painting, flesh, desire and the eroticism of the human body. God bless em!

PS. I have arranged the paintings below to illustrate some of the confluences and divergences between the two great artists, hopefully much as the actual exhibition will have done.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Gallery Borghese for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. 'The Conversion of Saint Paul' c. 1600/01

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
The Conversion of Saint Paul
c. 1600/01
Oil on canvas

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992) 'Study of George Dyer' 1969

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992)
Study of George Dyer
1969
Oil on canvas

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610) 'Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness' 1604

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness
1604
Oil on canvas

 

 

“I have always aspired to express myself in the most direct and crudest way possible, and maybe, if something is transmitted directly, people find it horrifying. Because, if you say something in the most direct way to a person, the latter sometimes takes offence, even if what you said is a fact. Because people tend to take offence at facts, or at what was once called truth.”

 

This is how the Irish genius Francis Bacon justified his modus operandi, his propensity for a disquieting and sometimes grotesque distortion of the form. His works, placed next to those of another “damned” painter of the history of art, the great Caravaggio, will be exhibited from 1st October 2009 to 24th January 2010 at the Galleria Borghese in Rome. On the occasion of the fourth centenary of Caravaggio’s death, and of the centenary of Bacon’s birth, the figures of these eccentric artists, who are considered excessive – each one in their own way in their own period – are interweaved and narrated for the first time at the Galleria Borghese, which will also have prestigious loans from the most important museums in the world. By Caravaggio, already familiar with the Galleria Borghese thanks to his relation with cardinal Scipione Borghese, six masterpieces will be on view, synthesising his entire production: Boy with basket of fruit, Sick little Bacchus, Madonna and Child with St. Anne (dei Palafrenieri), David with the head of Goliath, Saint Jerome writing and Saint John the Baptist. Other key works of his artistic career will be added to these pieces of the permanent collection: Peter’s denial (Metropolitan in New York), Saul’s fall (Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome), The Martyrdom of St. Orsola (Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano in Naples) and the Portrait of Antonio Martelli, Knight of Malta (Palazzo Pitti). About twenty works by Bacon, loaned by the most prestigious museums, will be placed next to Caravaggio’s masterpieces.

The exhibition has the objective, with an unusual style and combining for the first time the two authors, not so much to immerse visitors in a historical-critical reconstruction, as much as to suggest an alternative aesthetic experience generated by the confrontation between the two expressive idioms which are so far yet so close. To tell the truth, the comparison between the two artists betrays Bacon’s grammar, as he did not love to be measured against the great masters of the past, even with those he esteemed the most: he ingeniously looked at the great “pillars” of the history of art filtering them through photography, which convulsively stimulated his perception and guided his creativity, until he conceived works that were very far from their original source of inspiration. Yet Caravaggio and Francis Bacon have something in common: in their linguistic, formal and temporal diversity they are both undisputed paladins of the human figure, they were able to seize the arcane undertones of life and art, and translate them into representations of ruthless frankness. Through the truth of flesh, what emerges are existential anxieties and a careful analysis of the human soul. In Caravaggio it happens thanks to his realism taken to obsession, in which the rigorous plasticity of bodies and theatrical illumination do not reveal only pleasant and harmonious shapes, they do not spare the spectators’ eyes from the crudeness of the distressing and deformed aspect of a subject. For Bacon physical deformation is enslaved to the ferocious narration of the human condition. Therefore, the password of this “strange couple” of artists is “truth,” of purposes and/or of means.

Therefore, the true stars of the exhibition are the spectators, it is up to them to contemplate the works and find links and discrepancies between the two artists, according to their own sensibility and regardless of the conditions originally foreseen by the painters for their creations. Those pieces live, in the museum context of Villa Borghese, an autonomous existence, free from their first generated status. The exhibition “Caravaggio – Bacon” is curated by Anna Coliva, Director of the Galleria Borghese, Claudio Strinati, Special Superintendent for the PSAE and for the Museum Pole of the city of Rome and by Michael Peppiatt, biographer and close friend who knew very well Francis Bacon, organised by MondoMostre and made possible thanks to the support of BG Italia, ENEL and Vodafone.

Press release from the Gallery Borghese website [Online] Cited 12/12/2009 no longer available online

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610) 'Saint Jerome Writing' c. 1605-1606

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Saint Jerome Writing
c. 1605-1606
Oil on canvas
112 cm × 157 cm (44 in × 62 in)

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610) 'Young Sick Bacchus' c. 1593

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Young Sick Bacchus
c. 1593
Oil on canvas
67 cm × 53 cm (26 in × 21 in)

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610) 'John the Baptist (John in the Wilderness)' c. 1610

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
John the Baptist (John in the Wilderness)
c. 1610
Oil on canvas
159 cm × 124 cm (63 in × 49 in)

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992) 'Triptych in Memory of George Dyer' 1971

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992)
Triptych in Memory of George Dyer
1971
Oil on canvas

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992) Central panel of the 'Triptych in Memory of George Dyer' 1971

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992)
Central panel of the Triptych in Memory of George Dyer
1971
Oil on canvas

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992) Right panel of the 'Triptych in Memory of George Dyer' 1971

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992)
Right panel of the Triptych in Memory of George Dyer
1971
Oil on canvas

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992) 'Triptych' August 1972

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992)
Triptych
August 1972
Oil on canvas

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610) 'The Denial of Saint Peter' 1610

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
The Denial of Saint Peter
1610
Oil on canvas
94 cm × 125.4 cm (37 in × 49.4 in)

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992) 'Triptych of George Dyer' 1973

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992)
Triptych of George Dyer
1973
Oil on canvas

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992) Central panel of the 'Triptych of George Dyer' 1973

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992)
Central panel of the Triptych of George Dyer
1973
Oil on canvas

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992) 'Head VI' 1949

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992)
Head VI
1949
Oil on canvas

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610) 'Boy with a Basket of Fruit' c. 1593-1594

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Boy with a Basket of Fruit
c. 1593-1594
Oil on canvas
70 cm × 67 cm (28 in × 26 in)

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610) 'Madonna and Child with St. Anne (dei Palafrenieri)' 1606

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Madonna and Child with St. Anne (dei Palafrenieri)
1606
Oil on canvas
292 cm × 211 cm (115 in × 83 in)

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610) 'The portrait of Antonio Martelli, Knight of Malta' 1608-09

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
The portrait of Antonio Martelli, Knight of Malta
1608-09
Oil on canvas
118.5 cm × 95.5 cm (46.7 in × 37.6 in)

 

 

Galleria Borghese
Piazzale Scipione Borghese, 5

Opening hours:
Tuesday -Sunday 9.00am – 5.00pm

Gallery Borghese website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top




Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

Join 2,619 other followers

Follow Art_Blart on Twitter
Art Blart on Pinterest

Lastest tweets

April 2020
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Archives

Categories