Caravaggio was originally named Michelangelo Merisi and born in Lombardy, Italy on September 1571. Because of the bubonic plague that devastated the area, his family fled to the town of Caravaggio, which would later become the artist’s commercial name. By the age of six, most of his family members were taken by the plague, and he eventually became an orphan at only eleven years old. It was then the painter Simone Peterzano took him in and to Milan where he continued as an apprentice for about four years. As a young man, Caravaggio was quite rebellious and was even part of a gang with swordsmen and other painters. Oftenly he was involved in street fights, and after fighting with a policeman, the painter was forced to flee to Rome
During the late XVI to early XVII century, the Vatican had overwhelming power and was attracting artists from all over Europe in search of recognition. The streets are filled with clerics, mercenaries, beggars, pilgrims, among other male figures in search of a better living while many women saw no other alternative but to into prostitution. The city was extremely hostile, filled with arguments, fights, and disorder. Caravaggio arrived without food or money, living on the streets and fighting for survival. In 1606, one of the artists fights took a tragic end, and he murdered a man, forcing him yet again to run from the law.
The height of Caravaggio’s career was when Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte takes him in as his prodigy. The Cardinal had purchased two of his paintings and was very pleased with the painter’s dramatic and smart artworks. Being under the wings of del Monte was a huge leap for Caravaggio, as this meant that his art was being recognized for its excellence. In fact, he was Galileo’s main patron as well.
Although Caravaggio was one of the greatest painters of not only the Baroque period but of all art history, little was known about his life until about fifteen years ago. The artist’s life was filled with mystery and seen in a pejorative manner. Recent historians now understand a little more about his life and about why Caravaggio was always on the run and often in jail as well. His turbulent and dark life was definitely reflected in his work. Caravaggio beautifully used light to give a new view on oil painting. Although he worked for the religious institute, he was able to bring controversial figures into his work as he worked with traditional Christian themes to his contemporary world. Although this exact information was a mystery for decades, historians now know that Caravaggio was murdered in July of 1610.