Caravaggio's lost painting
November 13, 2005 9:12 AM   Subscribe


Art Gallery: hi-resolution scans of Caravaggio and, among many others, Rembrandt, Cimabue, and angels,.

Personal favorite: Il Sacrificio di Isacco
posted by matteo at 9:13 AM on November 13, 2005

NGA's page on Caravaggio's The Taking of Christ
In search of the real Caravaggio
The Caravaggio Code
Caravaggio: From shadows into light
Another scan
posted by matteo at 9:19 AM on November 13, 2005

Caravaggism on the Web
posted by matteo at 9:22 AM on November 13, 2005

Wow, thanks. I'm not too big on classic painters (blasphemy, I know), but I love Caravaggio's work. In fact, I think "Young Sick Bacchus" would make a great name for a band.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:42 AM on November 13, 2005

A little known secret of the finer museums and galleries is that many do not exhibit the genuine masterworks, only quality copies.

There is considerable logic to this. It avoids much of the wear and tear, it keeps them out of harms way from 'rude' people, and it protects them from theft. They correctly assume that only art experts can tell the difference, and then often only with laboratory equipment.

This allows them to keep the originals in safe, environmetally controlled vaults, available only to those experts that need to examine them for research or authentication purposes.

But this is only one side of the strangeness of the art world.

Professional art thieves are sometimes commissioned for any number of the following scams, mix 'em and match 'em:

The museum or gallery may hire them to steal the fake, then they collect the insurance money, and possibly sell the original to a private collector.

The thief may steal the fake, then when the theft is known, sell several forgeries to private collectors. Then they may return the original fake to the insurance company for a finder's fee, no questions asked.

The thief may steal the fake for publicity for the museum, or to increase the value of the works of a particular artist. A single "lost" work can raise the value of a collection considerably.

(This last scam was done recently with a new twist--the artist blatantly violated copyright of a company that was very copyright sensitive. He "sold" several of his works to a confederate, to protect them, then after a brief civil trial, publicly destroyed the remaining works to "settle" the case. This gave him and his works publicity, and multiplied the value of the "sold" works, which his confederate can now sell at a much higher price, splitting the proceeds with the artist.)
posted by kablam at 9:56 AM on November 13, 2005

kablam, I worked in art museums for 13 years, and to the best of my knowledge copies are never, ever exhibited as the real thing. Even if we slide past the sticky question of intellectual dishonesty (something which is taken very, very seriously by the vast majority of curators) then think about it logistically for a moment. Most major museums have collections that number towards 6 digits. Which ones are you going to copy? Can you just stop at a Caravaggio when you might well have an equally famous Candlelight Master or maybe a really rare Duccio or how about that Durer drawing or even a better known and more vulnerable de Kooning or Rothko? Who's going to do the copying? How are you gong to pay for it (always a sticky question in the non-profit world, and remember, museums publish annual reports and their finances are available for scrutiny?) What will the museum look like when someone finds out? Museums prefer to avoid scandal like the plague, and this kind of thing would cause a big one.

It's nice to think that art museums are hotbeds of intrigue and espionage (and when it comes down to who took the last doughnut from the staff lounge, they are) and glamorous art fraud but the truth is that they really are more about people who care passionately about art and scholarship - passionately enough to take the long hours and low salaries - and love their collections and want to show them to the world in the best possible light.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:25 AM on November 13, 2005

for those who are poets/ writers, might i suggest using caravaggio's work for "ekphrastic" inpiration?

i've been working on a sequence of persona sonnets-- both Shakespearean/ English and, recently, Petrarchan/ Italian (to emphasize sibilance for a poem from Medusa's perspective). though i've really only had time to feel satisfied about the two poems i've finished, the exercise has been challenging, enlightening, and rewarding. caravaggio's painting compels one to explore and question.

i'm through the octave for the Medusa poem-- onto the sestet!

( ... and more on ekphrasis )

in terms of resources, when i've worked on these poems, i've kept a copy of catherine puglisi's (GO RUTGERS!) caravaggio on my desk. it's a well- written and analytic look at his ouevre that features some detailed reprints of virtually all his work.

biographies abound, of course.

peter robb's m: the man who would become caravaggio isn't bad, but his writing style never "captured" me and i found myself finishing the book for the sake of finishing it. it is however nothing short of meticulous in its scholarship of caravaggio's escapades.

and i just received a copy of francine prose's caravaggio: painter of miracles as a gift. it reads considerably quicker than robb, which is either invigorating or infuriating, depending on your obsession with the specific's of an italian baroque genius/ hooligan's daily life.

in either case, keep puglisi's book (or matteo's links) handy to cross- reference; neither biog. features extensive color- plates of the art mentioned.

... and don't even get me started on the lesson i designed for using caravaggio's painting to enhance the narrative/ creative writing of your high school students who could usually care less about the visual arts.

i could go on and on forever.
posted by ronv at 1:14 PM on November 13, 2005

I can understand how this was misappropriated for 400 years, as Caravvagio's style was replicated and duplicated ubiquitously. I still like it regardless, and he did pick a brilliant moment in Passion that adhered perfectly to his sensibilities of rendering chiaroscuro of dramatic and pivotal moments from the New Testament.

That noted, i still have my favorites: his deliciously effeminite and sumptuous baccus, his comical and exaggerated doubting thomas, and his flawless, perfect the calling of st. matthew.
posted by naxosaxur at 1:21 PM on November 13, 2005

[this is phenomenal]
posted by shmegegge at 1:59 PM on November 13, 2005

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