September 29th 1571 is supposedly the birthday of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, better known as simply 'Caravaggio' to most of us. When I was younger living back in Ireland this artist was one of many famous artists mentioned in my art history schoolbook. The Baroque school of painting to which his art belonged wasn't very interesting to me. I suppose I could have been in such awe of the work by the likes of Caravaggio and his counterparts that it made me feel quite primitive. Or perhaps if was the fact that there was so much of this style and it's copycats available to see all over europe.
One such place I remember seeing art like this was in the old buildings at the school I attended as a teenager. Studying at a Christian Brothers school for boys back in Dublin wasn't always easy. Most of the subjects in these paintings were quite religious and orderly, as were the Christian brothers themselves, whose treatment and teaching methods of many students was disciplined and occasionally harsh. So as you might guess, the day I finished secondary school was a day I remember fondly! I didn't have to see those priests in their black cloaks ever again. I must mention that a few of them were of good character, friendly and excellent teachers. But I was happy to forget about them and all their paraphernalia, including all those religious paintings!
|Inside St.Charles's Church, Vienna.|
My appreciation for baroque art improved after travelling in europe. I remember a visit to Vienna and been amazed and a little shocked on entering St.Charles's Church. The whole feeling was awesome, a term which I think is used far too lightly these days.
'The Taking of Christ' - Caravaggio, 1602
There are many other blogs, videos and websites which can tell you all about the painting and it's history, so I won't bother rewriting it here. Here's an excellent video to watch if you have the time and a few links if you wish to get all the facts. I've also included a related and amusing blog which tells about the theft of this painting by professional robbers in the Ukraine. Unfortunately they became the not-so-proud owners of yet another fake Caravaggio.
'Stealing Caravaggio: The Odessa File'
'Milan show for disputed Caravaggio'
Well, in my opinion, each and every one of them looked like a masterpiece. But then there can only ever be one true original. And there it was, getting closer and closer to me as I walked through the centre of this large room. The nearer I approached, the clearer my eyes could see that this was the genuine article and the others quickly became just what they were, merely good copies.
The restoration people at the gallery had handled and prepared this great original with the treatment it had long deserved, and it was a great credit to them.
I was however a bit worried about the security of the painting. While I had in my time visited a few renowned galleries in europe and noticed high security for notable paintings, items such as cameras, extra guards-people, glass-framed boxes and possible laser alarms, all I could see protecting Caravaggio's painting was a thick red rope placed half a metre around it. I could see no harm coming to the painting that day, but I worried a little at the thought of an art teacher taking a class of twelve-year old Dublin schoolboys in to see it. I'd like to think I'm wrong and the painting was highly monitored, but I was that twelve-year old soldier once, and it wasn't unusual for me to lampoon about things I didn't understand. I remember going to see the Mona Lisa in Paris with a group of fellow students when I was twelve. I may be exaggerating just a little, but I reckon that old lady was very lucky to be protected by a solid glass case at the time!
Anyway, Happy Birthday Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, wherever you may be and thanks for all your wonderful work.