Italian Baroque Era Painter, ca.1571-1610
Italian painter. After an early career as a painter of portraits, still-life and genre scenes he became the most persuasive religious painter of his time. His bold, naturalistic style, which emphasized the common humanity of the apostles and martyrs, flattered the aspirations of the Counter-Reformation Church, while his vivid chiaroscuro enhanced both three-dimensionality and drama, as well as evoking the mystery of the faith. He followed a militantly realist agenda, rejecting both Mannerism and the classicizing naturalism of his main rival, Annibale Carracci. In the first 30 years of the 17th century his naturalistic ambitions and revolutionary artistic procedures attracted a large following from all over Europe.
ID: 62375 St John the Baptist 94 x 131 cm Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome In around 1605 Caravaggio dealt with St. John the Baptist in two splendid compositions, one in the Kansas City Gallery, the other in the Galleria Nazionale di Arte Antica in Rome. The former is laid out vertically, the latter horizontally. Both lend themselves to a modernistic reading aimed at pointing out a certain air between contempt and arrogance. In effect what we are dealing with here are splendid exercises in modeling the body through the play of light and shadow. In the version now in Kansas City, the figure is set before a dense curtain of plants; in that in Rome, there is only the trunk of a cypress tree, on the left. Both are admirable feats of painting, and it is understandable that collectors competed with each other for the artist's works. Caravaggio in turn knew how to make apparently uninteresting religious themes into paintings desirable even for his aristocratic patrons.