Show Less
Restricted access

The Path of Humility

Caravaggio and Carlo Borromeo


Anne H. Muraoka

The Path of Humility: Caravaggio and Carlo Borromeo establishes a fundamental relationship between the Franciscan humility of Archbishop of Milan Carlo Borromeo and the Roman sacred works of Caravaggio. This is the first book to consider and focus entirely upon these two seemingly anomalous personalities of the Counter-Reformation. The import of Caravaggio’s Lombard artistic heritage has long been seen as pivotal to the development of his sacred style, but it was not his only source of inspiration. This book seeks to enlarge the discourse surrounding Caravaggio’s style by placing him firmly in the environment of Borromean Milan, a city whose urban fabric was transformed into a metaphorical Via Crucis. This book departs from the prevailing preoccupation – the artist’s experience in Rome as fundamental to his formulation of sacred style – and toward his formative years in Borromeo’s Milan, where humility reigned supreme. This book is intended for a broad, yet specialized readership interested in Counter-Reformation art and devotion. It serves as a critical text for undergraduate and graduate art history courses on Baroque art, Caravaggio, and Counter-Reformation art.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Chapter 5. Caravaggio’s Public Roman Works


← 166 | 167 → ·5·


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...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.