Caravaggio in Rome

One of my favorite artists is Michelangelo Merisi, better known as Caravaggio. He was an Italian painter active in Rome between 1592 and 1610 and was a master of chiaroscuro, using light and dark to create a heightened sense of emotion. His paintings convey an amazing realism. You feel like you are there as the events in his scenes unfold. He often used working-class people as his models — and not every one of his time appreciated using a prostitute as a model for the Virgin.

A handsome rogue (pictured above), he’s also known for his wild and violent lifestyle. He once had to flee Rome after killing a man in a fight. He came to be known for having led a dramatic life — he lived fast and died young (in his 30’s) — one to inspire numerous movies and TV series.

Rome has many works by this amazing artist, several of which can be seen for free in Rome’s churches, almost all of which within walking distance of our apartment.

Church of San Luigi dei Francesi – three paintings still hanging in the place for which they were originally intended, The Calling of St. Matthew (a personal favorite), The Inspiration of St. Matthew, and The Martyrdom of St. Matthew.

The Calling of St. Matthew
The Calling of St. Matthew

Church of Santa Maria del Popolo – two paintings, The Conversion on the Way to Damascus, and The Crucifixion of St. Peter.

The Martyrdom of St. Paul
The Crucifixion of St. Peter

Basilica of Sant’Agostino – one painting, The Madonna di Loreto.

The Capuchin Museum at Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini – one painting, St. Francis in Meditation, which was only recently confirmed as a Caravaggio.

Galleria Borghese – five (!) paintings, The Madonna of the Serpent (another personal favorite), David with the Head of Goliath, the sensuous Boy with a Basket of Fruit, St. Jerome Writing, and Young Sick Bacchus, which is said to be a self-portrait of the artist, who went through periods of illness (as well as some wicked hangovers).

Sick Young Bacchus
Young Sick Bacchus

Capitoline Museums – two paintings, The Fortune-Teller, and a version of Young St. John the Baptist (Caravaggio created multiple versions of this subject).

The Vatican Museums – one painting, the Deposition from the Cross.

Deposition from the Cross
Deposition from the Cross

Palazzo Corsini – one painting, another version of St. John the Baptist.

Palazzo Barberini – three paintings, St. Francis in PrayerNarcissus, and the violent Judith Beheading Holofernes.

Judith Beheading Holofolners
Judith Beheading Holofernes

Galleria Doria Pamphilj – three paintings, Rest on the Flight into Egypt (absolutely gorgeous!), a version of Young St. John the Baptist, and his sweet and gentle The Penitent Magdalene.

Repenitent Mary Magdalene
The Penitent Magdalene

If you appreciate art but haven’t seen Caravaggio’s work in real life, you need to put that at the top of your bucket list!