Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Caravaggio surpasses Michelangelo

There's a fairly interesting article in today's New York Times according to which one Michelangelo (Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio) has surpassed another one (Michelangelo Buonarroti). The writer maintains (and I agree) that this may be due to the greater relevance of bad-boy Caravaggio to our times. In other words, a disquieting artist for disquieting times. Our contemporary sensibility would find the Tuscan Michelangelo a bit too tame (see the famed tondo Doni below) or a bit too epic (Sistine Chapel). We are living in an untame and unepic era, no doubt about that.

Poor Caravaggio (who it seems was not even from the town of Caravaggio after all) has suffered the fate of other great artists whose reputations were discounted for centuries. These include some of my favorite painters, such as Vermeer and Piero della Francesca. Even so, while Caravaggio was I think a first-rater, with outstanding technical originality, he is not a match for the other Michelangelo. Who is and probably always will be the Michelangelo. Although, for the sake of fairness, I should point out that the latter lived fifty years longer than the former.

If you want to find out more, go to the Caravaggio exhibition in Rome, on until the 13th of June. If you can't get to Rome, content yourself with this site featuring the naughty man's works.

(above, a portrayal of Narcissus admiring himself, attributed to Caravaggio)