In Caravaggio's Steps
September 29, 1571 – Caravaggio, Lombardy Italy
Caravaggio was born Michelangelo Merisi in the town of Caravaggio. He lived there as a child and then moved and started his training. While there is not much related to the famous artist, it is a beautiful Italian city offering a quintessential Italian experience.
1592 – Rome, Italy - Palazzo Colonna in piazza Santi Apostoli
When Caravaggio first went to Rome he stayed in the Palazzo Colonna for a short time. He wasn’t there long, but while there he painted Boy Peeling Fruit, his earliest known work. You can’t view the work there, but you can walk the streets that the artist walked, just a few blocks away from the Colosseum.
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1594 – Rome, Italy - Musei Capitolini
The Musei Capitolini houses Caravaggio’s first genre painting with multiple figures. The Fortune Teller marks a turning point in his career when he begins painting on his own, selling his work as his own.
1600 – Rome, Italy, The Contarelli Chapel
Caravaggio didn’t really start painting religious scenes until 1598 and in 1599 he was commissioned to design a chapel in the church San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome. His powerful friend and patron Cardinal del Monte suggested that the church hire the young Caravaggio to do a series of paintings to cover empty walls. As soon as they were finished, The Calling of St. Matthew, The Martyrdom of St. Matthew, and The Inspiration of St. Matthew were recognized as masterpieces showing religious art in a new way. His dark shadows and realistic depictions of St. Matthew quickly became the talk of Rome and cemented Caravaggio as a prominent figure in the Italian art world.
May 1606 – Rome, Italy
In the Campo Marzio area of Italy, near the Via della Scrofa, Caravaggio had one of the most defining and consequential nights of his life. In a planned fight, Caravaggio and some companions had a brawl with other men. The exact reason for the fight is debated, but it is believed to have centered on gambling, a woman, or both. After the murder of Ranuccio Tomassoni, Caravaggio was forced to flee Rome.
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1606 – Naples, Italy
Caravaggio arrived in Naples after leaving Rome. In Naples he stayed under the shelter of the Colonna family, hoping that eventually his troubles in Rome would pass. While there, he painted a few important pieces, which can be seen today at the Galleria di Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano, Pio Monte della Misericordia, and the Capodimonte.
1608 - Valletta, Malta – St. John’s Co-Cathedral
St. John's Co-Cathedral
While on the run, Caravaggio joined the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem in Malta and became a painter for them. Painting The Beheading of St John the Baptist and St Jerome Writing gained him favor with the powerful group, but only for a short time. His paintings for St. John’s Co-Cathedral were done in the church. This makes it especially powerful, as when you view the paintings, you know you are standing in the exact spot that Caravaggio stood. Walking throughout the church, you know you are following the same steps that he and his fellow knights took.
1608 – Birgu, Malta– Fort St. Angelo
Fort St. Angelo
Caravaggio was on track to gaining favor with Rome, when suddenly, as was typical of him, he found trouble. After a night brawl with a knight, he was imprisoned at Fort St. Angelo for about a month, only to escape before the trial.