Caravaggio and His Life

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Depending on when and where you lived, there are many words that could describe Caravaggio. Most people who lived around same the time as Caravaggio would describe him as eccentric, murderous, quarrelsome, daring, defiant, and forgettable. As present-day people, we only have the artworks of Caravaggio to portray him as beautiful, insightful, religious, descriptive, innovate, traditional, and probably an “Italian Badass”. However, we must look at his paintings, his masterpieces, in order to truly understand who Caravaggio really was. Notorious for his reckless private life and his provocative nature as a painter, Caravaggio wanted to make a statement in the arts. His paintings today are still alive with the high drama of his days and the stories he portrayed. While most artists of his day focused on religious mysticism and spirituality, Caravaggio made the Baroque style prominent in Europe by consolidating the humanistic and naturalism of the world into art. For me, there are two works of Caravaggio that struck me as truly humanistic paintings. One example is Caravaggio’s Self-portrait as Bacchus (picture on cover). Bacchus is the Roman God of wine, youth, and art. Notice though that Caravaggio hardly paints a transcendent or godlike image at all. Roman gods are supposed to be immortal and holy. Most artists would portray Roman gods by painting them in bright colors and dressed in elaborate fabrics with golden auras surrounding the outline of their bodies. Caravaggio takes that concept and turns it upside-down. Simon Schama, writer and producer of The Power of Art, can agree, “Instead of taking a human form and making it a God. (Caravaggio) takes a God and makes it all too human” (Schama, The Power of Art video 2). He does not even look human for that matter, but deathlike. Look at the pale skin, the lifeless eyes, the lips are bruised and cold as if he’s trying to speak to the observer, begging for your attention. Notice the body language of Bacchus as well,...
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