It’s difficult to forget the first time I saw Caravaggio’s painting Victorious Cupid. I turned a corner in a museum in Berlin and my heart froze. Plainly, it is painted from life. A youth has stood naked in Caravaggio’s studio, wearing fake wings. The ragazzo grins cockily as he displays his flesh, in a light that somehow leads all eyes directly to, well, the penis of Cupid. It is overt sexuality, not romantic notion of love, that triumphs in this painting.
At his feet lie symbols of ambition and creativity: armour, musical instruments, mathematical tools, a crown. Cupid’s insolent nakedness and provocative smile declare casually that everything, in the end, is less important than sex. It is a precociously modern point of view. Caravaggio means it to be disturbing. His picture proves what it preaches. However you react to it – with shock, revulsion, embarrassment, fascination or confusion – you are caught in its compelling grip.
Caravaggio’s masterpiece is more than 400 years old – he painted it in 1601 or 2. It amazed his contemporaries. They saw it as a personal confession: to them it proved Caravaggio guilty of the crime they …… SEE MORE ON “THE GUARDIAN”