DATE: 9/30/2010 | BY ERIN DUNIGAN
I have been a long-time admirer of the work of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio ever since my fateful introduction in Art History 101. How could I resist swooning over his moody bravura!! And I swooned all over again when I picked up this handsome monograph from Silvana Editoriale. Caravaggio: The Complete Works will whet any Caravaggio-appreciator’s appetite, presenting gorgeous high quality reproductions of the master’s complete works (which totals about 80 paintings in existence today), accompanied by thorough analysis from Rossella Vodret, one of the foremost specialists on the artist. It’s a must have!
Working in Italy at the turn of the seventeenth century, notorious fighter, drinker and all around bad-boy Caravaggio set the art world ablaze, and his legacy endures to this day--despite his tragically premature death in 1610 (at the age of 38).
Art critic Roberto Longhi noted of Caravaggio: "Ribera, Vermeer, Le Tour and Rembrandt could never have existed without him. And the art of Delacroix, Courbet and Manet would have been utterly different."
Caravaggio’s compositions are instantly recognizable. He revolutionized a style of painting known as tenebrism, which employs chiaroscuro or the dramatic contrast of light and dark to convey intense mood and emotion. My favorite example of this (studied on end as an art history undergrad) is "The Calling of Saint Matthew," 1600--this painting all but vibrates with theatricality.
Caravaggio was also known, quite controversially, for endowing his paintings with an air of realism, which marked a sensational shift away from his predecessors who favored the idealized rendering of the human form. Caravaggio, on the other hand, frequently used courtesans as models for the Virgin Mary, had street urchins posing as angels, and depicted saints as balding peasants with dirty feet.
One of my favorite stories about the artist’s contentious nature is in regards to his painting "The Conversion of St. Paul" (1601). A church official, incensed by Caravaggio’s iconographic irreverence, asked: "Why have you put a horse in the middle, and Saint Paul on the ground... Is the horse God?" To which Caravaggio shrewdly replied: "No, but he stands in God's light!"
Sealing the deal on his legacy and perfectly timed for the release of Caravaggio: The Complete Works http://www.artbook.com/9788836616626.html, Michael Kimmelman reports in a New York Times article from March 3, 2010 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/10/arts/design/10abroad.html that Caravaggio has now bumped Michelangelo from his 500-year run at the top of Italian art charts. Long live the “hyperrealist antihero”!
Caravaggio: The Complete Works
SILVANA EDITORIALEHbk, 9.75 x 11.25 in. / 216 pgs / 150 color.