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May 9 - May 9 2024

Caravaggio: Among the Light and Shadows

Host: National Gallery
Date: May 9th to May 23rd
Caravaggio was one of the most dynamic and influential artists of all time, famed for his dramatic lighting, powerful realism, and revolutionary approach to storytelling. Running alongside our exhibition, 'The Last Caravaggio', this course examines the artist’s late work, as well as Caravaggio's impact on the art of his contemporaries and followers, both in Italy and further afield.

Week 1: Rebel on the run, Caravaggio’s last years

Caravaggio was a complex character despite his fame – determined and ambitious yet irascible and highly volatile. In 1606, his life was forever changed following a particularly violent and bloody brawl in which the artist, himself badly injured, killed Ranuccio Tomassoni with his sword. This lecture will explore Caravaggio's meteoric rise to fame and dramatic fall from grace. We will examine the remarkable stylistic transformation that took place during the last four years of his life. In a period of restlessness and yet extraordinary creative activity, the artist was forced to leave Rome, realising that his own life was now on the line. This was the period in which Caravaggio painted 'The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula' (1610, Gallerie d’Italia, Naples), which is the focus of our free exhibition, ‘The Last Caravaggio’.

Week 2: Caravaggio and his legacy

Unlike many notable artists of his day, Caravaggio had no students and no workshop. He never travelled abroad, other than a short stay in Malta, and most of his major commissions until 1606 were for churches or private collections in Rome. Other artists were unable to study his paintings unless they travelled to, or lived in, that city. However, news of Caravaggio travelled fast, and in the words of one of his biographers, 'the younger ones flocked to him and praised him alone as the only true imitator of nature, looking upon his works as miracles'. This lecture discusses the careers of artists in Rome including Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi, Gerrit van Honthorst, Giovanni Baglione, Bartolomeo Manfredi and Jusepe de Ribera, examining to what extent they absorbed and disseminated Caravaggio’s dramatic use of lighting and revolutionary approach to storytelling, and considers why they might have done so.

Week 3: The story of the missing Caravaggio

In our final week of the course, we examine the fascinating detective story leading to the rediscovery of Caravaggio’s 'Taking of Christ' (1602) in Dublin, for many years attributed to Gerrit van Honthorst. The painting, which once hung alongside the National Gallery's 'The Supper at Emmaus' in the magnificent private collection of Ciriaco Mattei in Rome, was considered one of the great masterpieces of its day, but would disappear without trace for around 200 years. Thanks to a combination of brilliant detective work and good fortune, the painting re-emerged in 1990. We trace the fascinating trail of clues that led to its rediscovery.
  • May 9 - May 9 2024




Caravaggio: Among the light and shadows