History : Dec 2015-Jan 2016
8 DECEMBER 2015/JANUARY 2016 PROFILES IN “SUPPER AT EMMAUS” (1601) Caravaggio depicts a resurrected Christ dining with two of his disciples, who recognize him when he breaks bread. target not only for casual brawlers but also for offended rivals. He mocked those who disliked his paintings while also envying other artists, fearing that they might threaten his supremacy. His artistic prowess did not keep him out of legal trouble. He was prosecuted for libel and unprovoked assault on students in the street. In April 1604 he was reported for attacking a waiter in a tavern; that October he was jailed for throwing rocks at the police; in November he went back to prison for slander. But for the time being the cardinal’s influence helped him to escape the full force of the law. Caravaggio’s run of good luck ran out when a new pope was elected in 1605. Paul V clearly favored a new artist, the rising star Guido Reni from Bologna. Reni’s elegant classicism gained the favor of Rome’s aristocracy and clergy. Natu- ralism was by then out of style. Caravaggio decided to come out from under del Monte’s wing and rented a house in one of the most densely popu- lated and dangerous parts of the city. He frequently clashed with the authorities. On the Run In May 1605 Caravaggio was arrested for carrying arms without a permit. Shortly afterward he attacked a notary in an argument over a prostitute who had posed as his model. Caravaggio was forced to flee to Genoa, where he came to the attention of the Doria family, who were distinguished collectors and pa- trons of the arts. On returning to Rome the case was settled in favor of the painter, but then his landlady sued him for nonpayment of rent. The final straw came in May 1606 when he fought with a gang leader, Ranuccio Tomassoni. Caravaggio, backed by other swordsmen, engaged hand to hand with Ranuccio and mortal- ly wounded him. Caravaggio was also wounded and went into hiding in the Alban Hills. Rome’s authorities sen- tenced the fugitive to death, but he ERICHLESSING/ALBUMAKG/ALBUM “SICK BACCHUS,” A 1593 PAINTING BELIEVED TO BE A SELF-PORTRAIT BY CARAVAGGIO Caravaggio caused a sensation in Rome by using street urchins or even himself as models.