One of the most famous Italian painters of the Baroque period, Caravaggio challenged the classical traditions of painting. Born on September 29, 1571, his actual name was Michelangelo Merisi but he was dubbed Caravaggio after the the northern Italian town he was from. Instead of employing ideal proportions to the human subjects of his paintings, Caravaggio catered to a dramatic realism in which the models for his paintings were everyday people. Never before had lofty history paintings featured commoners. But the gritty familiarity of these figures complimented by Caravaggio’s style of employing tenebrism created an awe inspiring sense of drama. Tenebrism, a more extreme form of chiaroscuro, featured “violent” contrasts of light and dark.
Caravaggio’s use of extreme naturalism and tenebrism gained him many commissions and followers. Artists like Artemisia Gentileschi spread his style all over the Italian peninsula, and even to places like Spain and the Netherlands. He died on July 19th 1610.
Two young researchers, Maurizio Bernardelli Curuz and Adriana Conconi Fedrigolli, have announced that they have found at least 100 drawings they claim can be attributed to Caravaggio. They were found to be among the possessions of Caravaggio’s milanese teacher Simone Peterzano.
Other scholars, however, are skeptical. The two researchers did not undergo academic review and instead published their findings in a series of e-books. Many of the higher ups in art history academia are dismissing it as sensationalist invention. Bernardelli Curuz, the artistic director of the Fondazione Brescia Musei, says that these researchers avoided the scientific peer review because the Italian experts are a well established group. They do not leave much room for younger scholars to muscle in.
It’s ironic that a battle between younger and older scholars is occurring over works of Caravaggio. It is maintained that Caravaggio did not draw and yet Curuz and Fedrigolli are challenging that assumption. Caravaggio, too, went against his elders. He succeeded in his revolt, though wether these researchers are right or wrong is yet to be seen.
The New York Times has written an article on the controversy, and you can also go to the researcher’s website. There you can purchase the two e-books they published which has been translated into four languages for optimal audience accessibility.
E-Books: http://www.giovanecaravaggio.it/# (click the little british flag at the bottom right for english)
What do you think about the situation?
Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art Through the Ages. Thirteenth. Boston: Wadsworth Publishing, 2010.