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Caravaggio: Genius, Provoker, Murderer and the Master

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was simply known as Caravaggio. He was born in Milan in the late 16th century and grew up in Caravaggio, east of Milan. He was only six years old when his father and grandfather died of the plague on the same day. He would lose his mother in the following years and would become an apprentice of Simone Peterzano ( Editors, 2019).

Young Sick Bacchus, 1593, a self portrait
Young Sick Bacchus, 1593, a self portrait (1)

Peterzano was a pupil of Tiziano Vicielli, known as Titian. Titian is an adjective for a very warm, sparkling reddish brown-orange color, a blend of red and gold that took the name from its most skilled user (“Titian Definition and Meaning,” n.d.-b). Titian himself was famous for the use of rare pigments in their richest and most saturated form as well as carefully balancing each color with accompanying colors to create an ultimate harmony. He also focused on the effect of light on color, using lighting effects including chiaroscuro to accentuate contrasting hues. His loose brush strokes and expressive application of paint made him known as the master of color (Titian, n.d.). He built up layers of glazes to express the appearance and texture of human form accurately, delicately, and softly. The Venetian Renaissance painter became famous for his appealing rendering of the human form. He used his fingers along with brushes to apply and blend paint which gave a greater movement and created a unique fluidity (Breda, 2018). He defined the Venetian Renaissance style while influencing later innovators of Baroque ( Editors, 2014).

Simone Peterzano, mostly known as Caravaggio's teacher, was a disciple of Titian in Venice (as can be seen from the autograph he placed in his paintings). Simone Peterzano is one of the representatives of the late Lombard Mannerism, also known as the Late Renaissance whose compositions are asymmetrical or unnaturally elegant. It was torn by plague and the destruction of Rome and was largely replaced by the Baroque style. The well implied bright color is distinguished in Peterzano’s early paintings where his Venetian training shines, while his latest work is characterized by a cold and ascetic monument (Calvesi, 1954).

Caravaggio was an apprentice of Simone Peterzano for four years where he learned the basics like preparing canvases, mixing paints, perspective, proportion, and so on. He, supposedly, developed a “nature morte” (still life) painting technique while studying under Peterzano and he absorbed the contemplative atmosphere of Leonardo da Vinci and renowned Northern Italian painters like Giorgione and Titian (Codazzi, 2020). Caravaggio was fascinated by patterns in nature and bright colors. Leonardo da Vinci‘s “The Annunciation” is full of nature and beautiful details such as the angel holding flowers: some flowers are closed while some of them open in a correct form as in nature. Caravaggio studied body language, use of light, reflection, shadows, the human body along with nature itself. It can be said that Caravaggio’s biggest inspiration was his surroundings in Lombardy and the great masters of the Renaissance period (Robb, 2000).

The Annunciation, Leonardo da Vinci, 1472
The Annunciation, Leonardo da Vinci, 1472 (2)

In his earlier years, the simplicity and attention to naturalistic details can be seen, yet his style exhibits a uniqueness in expressing the whole truth. For example, "Basket of Fruit" shows the passage of time. The fruits ar