With a reputation as a genius of oils, a bon vivant, and a brawler, Michelangelo Merisi, known more popularly as Caravaggio, was bound to attract as many admirers as haters, as many compatriots as foes. Cleverly, a London-based gallery specializing in Old Masters, Whitfield Fine Arts, has collected the Roman master of chiaroscuro’s most fervent followers and detractors under one roof in the “Caravaggio’s Friends and Foes” exhibition bowing this May.
To mark the 400th anniversary of the death of the controversial painter, Whitfield decided to forgo the obvious path of simply rounding up some available, privately owned pieces by the great master, and instead will offer a picture of the world he worked in and ultimately influenced by presenting works of his contemporaries—both those who considered themselves friendly peers and acolytes, as well as rivals for money and prestige in the Roman art scene. Prospero Orsi, Antiveduto Grammatica, Louis Finson, for instance, represent the many peers who worked alongside Caravaggio, learning from his technique and works just as he cribbed ideas and images from them. Even as Caravaggio climbed the ladder of the Roman art world, others like Tommaso Salini and Cavalier d’Arpino joined a chorus of critics and contemporaries who detained the painter for either his use of their methods, his style, or his off-canvas behavior. No doubt it would cause those latter artists some consternation to know that four centuries on, they are best known as foils to the man they despised so much. But still, being remembered for being one of the many artists pulled in by the gravity of Caravaggio’s spirit and innovation is better than being forgotten altogether, yes?
For a first-person walk through Caravaggio’s life and art via the Roman streets he haunted, pre-order a copy of our “Art + Travel Europe: Step into the Lives of Five Famous Painters”.
“Caravaggio’s Friends & Foes Announced at Whitfield Fine Art” (Artdaily.org)
“Caravaggio’s Friends and Foes”
May 26 – July 23, 2010
Whitfield Fine Art
23 Dering Street
Top: “Saint Sebsatian”, Louis Finson, c. 1606-1610, courtesy of the Whitfield Fine Art Gallery.
Bottom: “David Returns Triumphant With The Head of Goliath”, Antiveduto Grammatica, 1610, courtesy of the Whitfield Fine Art Gallery.