Caravaggio in Exile

Opening October 24, the Capodimonte Museum will host an exhibition entirely dedicated to Caravaggio and the last four years of his life, entitled Caravaggio: The Last Years. For the first time in Italy, this event will bring together some twenty-five works produced by the painter during his exile from Rome, part which time he resided in Naples.

The show includes works from museums in New York, London, Rome, and Madrid such as the Sette Opere di Misericordia, the Martirio di Sant’ Orsola, and the Flagellazione, the last of which is a part of the Capodimonte collection.

On May 29, 1606, in Rome, during a furious brawl over a disputed score in a game of tennis, Caravaggio killed a man. In fear of the consequences, Caravaggio, himself wounded and feverish, fled the city and sought refuge on the nearby estate of a relative of the Marquis of Caravaggio. He then moved on to other hiding places and eventually reached Naples, probably at the end of 1606. In Naples Caravaggio was protected and hosted by the Colonna family.

In 1607 Caravaggio was invited to Malta by the Order of Malta as a “Knight of Justice;” soon afterward, however, he was expelled from the order and imprisoned. He escaped and moved to Sicily. Between 1608 and 1609 he lived in Palermo, Messina, and Siracusa.

In 1609 he returned to Naples, as a protégée of Costanza Sforza Colonna, and eventually died of malaria in 1610, near Porto Ercole, on his way back to Rome.

Duing these last four years of his life Caravaggio was a tortured person: on the run, fearful, desperate. And yet, in spite of this strife (or, perhaps, because of it) he produced some of his most powerful work during this period. A common theme of torture and pain runs through the pieces, and the human figure—already dramatized in the painter’s work to this point—takes on a twisted aspect. Bodies are spun like corkscrews; faces are contorted. And everywhere, light and dark are in constant battle—Caravaggio’s famous use of chiaroscuro reaches its zenith.

All of this had a tremendous effect on the history of art in Naples. After his death, a group of painters calling themselves the Caravaggeschi founded a school around his style and made this the norm for several decades.
This exhibition at the Capodimonte, one of Naples’ most important art collections, will seminal. As well, an opportunity exists for Caravaggio lovers to spend some time in the city visiting landmarks that were significant to the painter, such as the Colonna Palace, in the last years of his life.

Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples
October 24, 2004 – January 24 2005
Tue-Sun from 8.30am to 7:30 pm
Closed on Monday
Tickets : Euro 10