Caravaggio the Early Years

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was the son of Fermo di Bernardino Merisi, the steward and architect to the Marquis of Caravaggio, a town near Milan.  When Caravaggio was around the age of 11 his father died leaving the young boy, his two brothers and his sister to be raised by their mother, Lucia Aratori.

Shortly thereafter, around the age of 12, Caravaggio was apprenticed to Milanese Painter, Simone Peterzano.  The apprenticeship is said to have lasted 4 years during which time Caravaggio learned to mix paint, select brushes, and construct frames.  During this time he also learned the Lombard and Venezian realist style which differed significantly from the idealization of the Florentine painting style of the time. 


Sometime between 1588 and 1592 Caravaggio moved to Rome.  The early years in Rome were tough for the young artist.  He moved into the decaying Campo Marzio neighborhood which was a cosmopolitan arty area with inns, temporary shelters, eateries, and picture shops.  Caravaggio was nearly broke at the time and had a violent temperament making it hard to keep a steady job.  He moved from studio to studio as an assistant painting backgrounds and still lives in the paintings of lesser artists. 

In 1595 Caravaggio broke out on his own, and working independently began selling his paintings through dealer, Maestro Valentino.  Valentino brought some of Caravaggio’s work to Cardinal Francesco del Monte, an influential member of the Papal Court.  He soon enjoyed the patronage of del Monte and was invited to live, dine, and work in the house of the cardinal. 

Continue Reading: Caravaggio's Biography the Middle Years

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