Bad Boy Beauty

Caravaggio. The New York Times recently published that this “anithero” artist had superceded Michelangelo in his relevance to contemporary viewers (1).  The lines outside of the Rome’s Scuderie del Quirinale exhibition certainly seem to prove this.

The unparalleled Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio could earn his idealization solely for the stunning richness of his works, lush with emotional content transcending time and place. But his personal history, rife with combat, broken promises, escapes and an early death provides a lurid backstory. No wonder he fascinates.

In this issue, we present various points of view from around the world – from scholars, to artists, to curators to lifelong students of Caravaggio – along with images of some of his most influential works.

I will always remember how my own affair with the artist began. During a Baroque art history class (taught by one of the authors in this edition), his works were projected on the screen in a darkened classroom. The Death of the Virgin drew me in immediately – the tension between the heavy grief surrounding the bloated corpse and the ethereal swirl of red fabric above the mourners, emerging from the dark in a luminous glow. When I finally glimpsed the real painting in the Louvre a few years ago, it seemed a kind of coming home.

Claudia Palmira

1 Michael Kimmelman, “An Italian Antihero’s Time to Shine.” The New York Times, March 9, 2010