There are few paintings in which the Lombard painter paints the background, which takes a back seat to the subjects, the only protagonists of his work. For the realization of his paintings, Caravaggio in his studio placed lanterns in specific places to ensure that the models were only partially illuminated, with “grazing light”. With this artifice, Caravaggio brings out from a dark background only specific portions of the painted scene, which thus acquire an almost sculptural relief.
Among the early works of Caravaggio there are many seductive boys usually intent on playing an instrument (traditional accompaniment to love) or eating a fruit (symbol of the satisfaction of the senses); they are young people caught from the street, from the places he liked to frequent such as taverns, gambling dens, brothels and places of ill repute in the city. The continuous proposal of these characters made many critics formulate suppositions regarding the alleged homosexuality of the artist and his two most important patrons, Cardinal Del Monte and the Marquis Giustiniani, who kept many of these works in their private cabinets. ; the most famous of these is the Amor vincit omnia, a painting with strong sensual tones that the artist had to replicate for both clients.
The frequentation of Caravaggio is documented, especially in his Roman years, both of various prostitutes, some of whom, as is known, portrayed in his paintings, and of boys with whom he seems to entertain sentimental relationships, including Mario Minniti, model the Child with a basket of fruit, the Good luck, the cheaters, the Concerto, the Lute Player, the Bacchus, the Boy bitten by a green lizard, the Vocation and the Martyrdom of St. Matthew.
Not only ephebic subjects characterized Caravaggio’s paintings, often the representation, even in official works for public commissions, of old and deformed characters in the role of venerable saints and prostitutes and humble women in the guise of important female figures in the history of the church. The use of these models was the reason for many criticisms that accused the artist of enhancing the clumsiness and filth of certain characters, leaving aside the idealization of beauty and the search for compositional perfection, peculiarities always sought by previous artists , especially in the representation of subjects belonging to the history of religion.
Many paintings by Caravaggio depict saints, the most represented being St. Francis, St. Jerome and St. John the Baptist. St. Francis usually appears as an ascetic figure in prayer, St. Jerome as an old man intent on writing and St. John as a young man, practically naked, in the desert.
In Caravaggio’s paintings we find great realism in the figures, generally represented on a monochrome background, and illuminated by a violent light. The main Caravaggist painters are Bartolomeo Manfredi, Carlo Saraceni, Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi, Giovanni Antonio Galli (known as Spadarino), Francesco Boneri (better known as Cecco del Caravaggio), Gerrit van Honthorst (traditionally called Gherardo delle Notti), Hendrick ter Brugghen , Giovanni Serodine, Carlo Sellitto, Battistello Caracciolo and Jusepe de Ribera; in the latter two, operating in Naples, we find the style of Caravaggio’s last years, characterized by very dark atmospheres. Other artists of the Kingdom of Naples influenced by the Caravaggesque lesson were Pietro Antonio Ferro as well as Luca Giordano, Mattia Preti, Francesco Guarini and (through the latter) Francesco Solimena.
In 1967 Rai broadcast the television drama Caravaggio directed by Silverio Blasi and Gian Maria Volonté as the artist.
In 2002 the short film Vernissage! … 1607 Caravaggio, directed by Stella Leonetti, tells the presentation of one of Caravaggio’s paintings, the Seven Works of Mercy. The artist is played by actor Danny Quinn.
In 2004 the medium-length film Caravaggio was presented. The last time (1606-1610), the work of the Neapolitan director Mario Martone.
In 2008, an art film-medium-length film Voluptas dolendi i gesti del Caravaggio was produced by the Marco Fodella Foundation, based on the play of the same name by Mara Galassi and Deda Cristina Colonna, directed by Francesco Vitali, with Deda Cristina Colonna and Mara Galassi, photography by Francesco Vitali, 17th century Italian music by Baroque composers Francesco da Milano, Laurencinus Romanus, Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger, Girolamo Frescobaldi, Ascanio Mayone and Giovanni Maria Trabaci.