Great Artist – Bad Citizen

Not so long ago his paintings could be had for a song – and a dance too I would think – but now Caravaggio is among the hottest painters in the world.   It seems every time I turn around in Rome there’s another poster advertising another Caravaggio Exhibition.  Last year we had the big blockbuster at the Scuderie del Quirinale – people were lining up for 4 to 5 hours in the hot sun to get in – you’ll notice there was no first person in the statement.   Then we had La Notte di Caravaggio on July 18 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his death – notice the use of the first person for that event.  Yes I did the rounds of two of the three churches that boast Caravaggios and lined up for three hours to get into the Villa Borghese then tromped home at four in the morning which for the Master, if tales that are currently being told are true, would have been early.

Now the Archivo di Stato di Roma (Archives of the City of Rome) have mounted an exhibition that reveal some of the dire and dirty deeds surrounding Michel(I’m no Angelo) da Caravaggio.  Deeds  that heretofore had only been whispered about in dark alleyways and smokey taverns.  Documents from the archives detail a criminal dossier that would make lesser men blush.  Here’s the short list of his police file:

  • May 4 1598: Arrested at 2- 3am near Piazza Navona, for carrying a sword without a permit
  • November 19 1600: Sued for beating a man with a stick and tearing his cape with a sword at 3am on Via della Scrofa
  • October 2 1601: A man accuses Caravaggio and friends of insulting him and attacking him with a sword near the Piazza Campo Marzio
  • April 24 1604: Waiter complains of assault after serving artichokes at an inn on the Via Maddalena
  • October 19 1604: Arrested for throwing stones at policemen near Via dei Greci and Via del Babuino
  • May 28 1605: Arrested for carrying a sword and dagger without a permit on Via del Corso
  • July 29 1605: Vatican notary accuses Caravaggio of striking him from behind with a weapon
  • May 28 1606: Caravaggio kills a man during a pitched battle in the Campo Marzio area

The good people over at the BBC have a great inter-active article on a few of the police files and documents on display at Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza.  He really was the bad boy of Renaissance art. 

18 febbraio – Santi Massimo, Claudio, Prepedigna, Alessandro e Cuzia