Caravaggio – The Convict Behind The Masterpieces

Caravaggio was a famous Italian painter who was also known for his controversies. He is one of the pioneers of modern painting. Caravaggio is credited for developing the ‘Tenebrism’ technique of painting, which was as a massive innovation at that time. The painting was not the only thing Caravaggio was known for; he was also a habitual criminal, which was also evident in some of his work. He was alleged (also convicted in some cases) to have written libelous poems, assaulting and even murder a person.

Early life and Rise to Success

Michelangelo Merisi
Michelangelo Merisi

Born on September 29, 1571, in Milan, as Michelangelo Merisi, Caravaggio lost both his parents very early in his life. Almost all of his family members got infected by a hazardous plague, and it ultimately claimed all of their lives. This tragedy forced his remaining family members to move out of Milan in 1576. After his mother passed away in 1584, Caravaggio again moved to Milan to look for opportunities. After moving to Milan, Caravaggio started learning necessary painting skills from Simone Peterzano. After living for four years in Milan, he made Rome his home. Without any money or possession, Caravaggio began working under some local painters to feed himself. He was not working for anyone fixed but kept changing or sometimes forced to change his job frequently. It was during the mid-1590s that he became a bit stable and began painting and selling his art to Maestro Valentino, a local trader. Through this trader, Caravaggio’s work got the attention of Francesco del Monte, a cardinal. Francesco loved his work and offered Caravaggio a place to live in addition to the handsome salary. Caravaggio was an extraordinary painter who would complete most of his painting in less than two weeks. He painted around forty murals under Francesco. Some of these paintings made him very popular among the financially lower class people.

Controversies

Controversies, one of the most (or arguably the most) talked about part of Caravaggio’s life, didn’t let him reach his artistic best as a painter. As his career was going up, his temper was also becoming bad to worse. People around him would be cautious of his sudden violent behavior. He was also a severe alcoholic and a gambler. Caravaggio would roam in the open with a sword in his hand, scaring people around and sometimes even assaulting them. Most of these things were reported to happen late after midnight. In 1603, a contemporary painter accused him of paying people to kill him. The same painter took Caravaggio to court for writing bad things about him in a poem and distributing that poem among people, for which Caravaggio had to go behind bars.

Controversies
Controversies

After coming out from the prison, Caravaggio was taken to court for harassing a waiter, attacking police officers with stones, not paying his rent and many more accusations. But the real shock came in 1606 when he murdered a person called Ranuccio Tomassoni. Some people say that it happened because of a fight over some money, others say that the killing took place after escalating from a brawl over tennis. There are also some suggestions that Caravaggio liked Tomassoni’s wife. Caravaggio was found guilty in the court and was sentenced to the death penalty. However, Caravaggio somehow managed to run to Rome to save himself from the death penalty.