Caravaggio and Carlo Borromeo
Chapter 5. Caravaggio’s Public Roman Works
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CARAVAGGIO’S PUBLIC ROMAN WORKS
The principles of Franciscan thought and practice so famously adopted and promulgated by Carlo Borromeo—Christlike humility and charity, engaging all the senses through prayer and meditation before tangible imagery—had been coherently focused on sacred art by Paleotti’s Discorso. It is lifelikeness and truth to nature, qualities promoted by Paleotti to induce meditation and to bridge the gap between past and present that inform and characterize Caravaggio’s Roman sacred imagery, beginning with his public debut at San Luigi dei Francesi. The artist’s public works are among his most controversial. Caravaggio’s early biographers have suggested that many of his public altarpieces and lateral paintings for chapels were rejected. These claims continue to be repeated in the scholarly literature about Caravaggio without concrete documentation. His biographers pointedly refer to second versions of works being required after dissatisfaction with the originals. These proposed rejections and the making of new versions, however, can be seen as part of a complex bidding war among patrons to obtain a work by the most “distinguished painter of Rome.”
← 167 | 168 → Contarelli Chapel
According to Baglione, Caravaggio received his first public commission for three canvases for the Contarelli Chapel in San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome through Cardinal del Monte.1 Bellori, on the other hand, credits not Cardinal del Monte for this 1599 commission, but the Neapolitan poet Giambattista Marino (1569–1625). According to Bellori, Caravaggio painted the poet’s portrait, and Marino praised...
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