Caravaggio: sex, violence and film noir (By David Eskerdjian form The ARTNEWSPAPER)

“Neither Annibale Carracci nor Caravaggio is now usually reckoned among the most famous masters; they fell out of fashion in the 19th century, though they are coming into their own again.”  From the perspective of 2010, 400 years after Caravaggio’s untimely death at the age of 39, this quotation is outrageously beyond its sell-by date. Amazingly enough, it comes from E.H. Gombrich’s The Story of Art, which was first published in 1950. If Gombrich’s words remained unmodified until the 16th edition (1994), this has more to do with the unchanging nature of the main text of The Story of Art than with some weird petrifaction of the otherwise notoriously fickle history of taste.  Oddly enough, the emendation remains a half-truth, with the sentence now proclaiming: “Annibale Carracci and Caravaggio fell out of fashion in the 19th century, but have come into their own again.” On the contrary, in the intervening six decades the trajectories of Caravaggio and Annibale, his great rival in Rome around 1600, could scarcely have been more polarised. In scholarly circles, Annibale has indeed recovered from the disdain of the 19th century, but remains a secondary figure in the public imagination. Conversely, in the meantime Caravaggio has become the ultimate old master superstar—his only real rival is Vermeer, and it may be no coincidence that they have both been the subjects of biopics (Derek Jarman’s “Caravaggio”, 1986, and Peter Webber’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, 2003)—not just within the academy but, even more crucially, far beyond its confines. The chronicle of both Caravaggio’s critical death and his ultimate transfiguration repays scrutiny and will be examined here, yet of itself the mere fact of his rediscovery does not entirely explain his apotheosis, ….  READ MORE ON THE ART NEWSPAPER


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