April 14, 2010

Saw the Caravaggio exhibit today (Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1571 – 1610) at the Scuderie del Quirinale. Big crowds. Great exhibit!

Only about twenty-five paintings, but they were perfectly representative of what the exhibit terms the three phases of his life and creative work. You can really see the changes from the young painter Caravaggio to the tortured soul he became, and the painfully humane, transcendent art he created toward the end of his life. (He was only 39 when he died.) The palette changes, the use of light, and the subject matter.

The use of light is inspired, even today—reproductions in books simply do not do justice to these paintings. There is a luminosity and dimensionness that is lost.

The faces he paints are infused with horror, compassion, contentment—all are rendered so that the face looks as if it is a human across the room from you.

the_musicians_by_caravaggio.jpgMy favorites were some of the early paintings, like The Musicians. These early images are so rich with potential; you can just see the talent pulsing in the young artist. But the later, dark paintings haunt because you can tell this is a man who painted right out of his complete torment and hence empathy for the human condition. He feels what goes onto the canvas; you know this, and so the painting becomes bigger than life. It becomes life.

Truly a stunning exhibit, despite the crowds.

Couldn’t take in much else. Sat on a bench in an out-of-the-way park I’ve discovered, frequented mainly by Romans, read a contemporary mystery novel and listened to the chaos that is Rome roar around the walls of my little green world.

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