Caravaggio The Real OG
I love this story about Caravaggio. The boy was talented, there’s no doubt about that, ask any art history scholar.
What I mean by “OG” is that Caravaggio was The “Original Gangsta” if I may paraphrase a line from an old Ice-T song. I never learned about any of Caravaggio’s antics in any of my art history classes.
Seriously, if one of my professors had mentioned this, I’m sure I would’ve paid more attention. The moral of the story seems to be that it’s not who you know that matters, it’s who knows you that really matters.
Four hundred years after his death, Caravaggio is a 21st Century superstar among old master painters. His stark, dramatically lit, super-realistic paintings strike a modern chord – but his police record is more shocking than any modern bad boy rock star’s.
An exhibition of documents at Rome’s State Archives throws vivid light on his tumultuous life here at the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th centuries.
Caravaggio’s friendships, daily life and frequent brawls – including the one which brought him a death sentence from Pope Paul V – are described in handwritten police logs, legal and court parchments all bound together in heavy tomes – and carefully preserved in this unique repository of Rome’s history during the Renaissance and after.
The picture the documents paint is that of an irascible man who went about town carrying personal weapons – a sword and dagger, and even a pistol – without a written permit, boasting that he enjoyed the protection of the ecclesiastical authorities who commissioned some of his most famous works.
He had frequent brushes with the police, got into trouble for throwing a plate of cooked artichokes in the face of a waiter in a tavern, and made a hole in the ceiling of his rented studio, so that his huge paintings would fit inside. His landlady sued, so he and a friend pelted her window with stones.