Baroque’s Bad Boy: Caravaggio

Short-tempered, rude to waiters, sword-wielding and vicious.

By all accounts, Michelangelo Merisi, aka Caravaggio, was not the kind of man you’d want to spend time with. He was prone to starting fights; once, when a waiter couldn’t explain which of his artichokes had been cooked in butter, and which in oil, he threw the entire plate in his face.

Yet he painted the most compelling paintings. Dark, brooding, tenebrous works that used strong illumination contrasted with shade to create theatrical drama. His work pushed European painting forward by introducing a realistic style, created by using working-class models that appear carved in light. The virgins in his paintings were certainly not virgins in real life. And this ruffled feathers.

But it was in 1606 when Caravaggio caused his biggest stir. After getting into a brawl during a tennis match, he reached boiling point and killed a man.

This Baroque boy was about as bad as it gets. We’ll explore his life and a selection of his most dramatic works in this talk.