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The Fallacy Of Bellori's Views On Caravaggio

874 words - 4 pages

It does not seem to be true that Caravaggio, as stated by Giovanni Bellori, “advanced the art of painting”. At first, based off of Caravaggio’s primary contribution to art, tenebrism, one may conclude that he was an innovative painter of his time. This happens to be very similar to the views of Bellori, who argues that Caravaggio was innovative in that he introduced realism and abandoned the conventions of preceding painters. In this case it seems that Caravaggio’s “Boy with a Basket of Fruit” would, perhaps, be the most suitable work to use in order to prove Bellori’s claims, as it contains imagery and techniques which pertain to all of the qualities of which Bellori believed to be inherent in Caravaggio’s works; and thus also serves as the perfect springboard for debunking his assertions. Basically, Giovanni supports his claims with two main generalizations of Caravaggio’s works, of which both appear to be true upon first glance, but neither happen to survive upon deeper inspection.
To start, Bellori had said that, “he [Caravaggio] came upon the scene at a time when realism was not much in fashion”. First, one must note that it is true that most art previous to Caravaggio was dominated by the Classical idealism of the Renaissance. This was exemplified, for example, in Michelangelo’s massive and heavily muscled Classical nudes, such as those of the Sistine Chapel. Thus, upon examining Caravaggio’s painting, it appears that he had introduced the artistic quality of realism, as he is very meticulous in the details put into the fruit basket and the boy, who has individualized and distinct facial and bodily features; all the while lacking the Herculean body of Renaissance and Classical figures. However, despite the fact that all of the above seems to be true, one should know that it is not entirely, as though Caravaggio may have brought realism into Italian Baroque, such techniques had already been employed by Northern European artists of the 16th Century, such as Pieter Bruegel, Hans Holbein and Albrecht Durer. For example, simply examine the realism provided in Holbein’s portrait of Henry VII, whose royal outfit is detailed down to the very inch, and his face appearing to be ever so life-like.
Giovanni’s claims bend further upon even deeper inspection. For example, he states that Caravaggio came into a time when, and thus directly contrasted with, “figures [that] were made according to convention and manner and satisfied more the taste for gracefulness than for truth.” At first, one could argue that Caravaggio departed from the “convention and manner” of artwork preceding him. Looking at his painting, one...

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