Rome to host ‘pure’ Caravaggio show

Artist’s greatest masterpieces go on display in February

(ANSA) – Rome, December 16 – The Italian capital is preparing to host an elite exhibition of Caravaggio works, with a selection of premium loans from around the world. Fewer than 40 of the artist’s greatest masterpieces will go on display but all are confirmed, authenticated works, said culture ministry director, Claudio Strinati. The exhibition will open at the Scuderie del Quirinale Museum on February 18, one of a series of events planned to commemorate 400 years since Caravaggio’s death. ”This show is pure Caravaggio, meaning that those works being displayed are the so-called certain ones, over which there are no doubts,” explained Strinati. ”There are actually only few paintings by him but his works all show the unity of his style”. Strinati admitted that a ”pure Caravaggio” exhibition was no easy task, given the rush of ”discoveries” attributed to the artist over recent years, sparking frequently unwarranted public excitement. Although the exhibition will draw a clear line between attributed and confirmed works, it will look at some of the controversy surrounding Caravaggio and his style. In particular, it will examine his renowned technique and address the debate over whether he worked individually, with another artist or as part of workshop. Rather than adopting a chronological approach, the exhibition will spotlight similar themes and subjects in the master’s work. His ‘Boy with a Basket of Fruit’ from Rome’s Borghese Gallery will hang alongside the Uffizi Gallery’s ‘Bacchus’, both of which feature dark-haired youths with fruit and flowers. Several large-scale altarpieces created for Rome churches will be displayed next to later altarpieces produced in Sicily.

The National Gallery in London and the Brera Fine Arts Academy have both agreed to loan their differing versions of ‘The Supper at Emmaus’, one completed in 1601, the other in 1606. Three of Caravaggio’s depictions of St John the Baptist will go on show, two from different institutes in Rome and the third from the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City. The Hermitage in St Petersburg will loan ‘The Lute Player’, which will be hung next to ‘The Musicians’ from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art historians consider Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1573-1610) the most revolutionary artist of his time but he is probably best known today for his mastery of chiaroscuro lighting. Orphaned at the age of 11, be began his painting career at a young age in Milan, after which he moved to Rome. Here, his dramatic style and realistic naturalism caused outcry but also won him fans. However, his violent nature landed him in prison several times and he was eventually forced to flee from murder charges in 1606.

The remaining years of life saw him moving between hiding places in Naples, Sicily and Malta while seeking a papal pardon.

He received a pardon shortly before he died in 1610.

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