Bacchus by Caravaggio
Michelangelo Merisi, called Caravaggio, is one of the most important artists in the history of Art.
Nervous by temperament, often violent, revolutionary in his way of painting, Caravaggio personifies in every aspect of his eventful life the romantic figure of the damned artist.
Born in Milan, he worked mainly in Rome, Naples, Malta and Sicily. His training was strongly influenced by Lombard and Venetian painting: from the first, he learned the use of the color, from the second, he learned the deep realism and the preference for humble and popular subjects.
This last feature is observable in the famous Bacchus conserved at the Uffizi, commissioned by his patron Cardinal del Monte as a gift for the Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinand I and painted between 1596 and 1597.
In this masterpiece, Bacchus is not represented in an idealized way. On the contrary, he might look like a man of the people, like one of those characters Caravaggio used to hang around with in taverns and brothels. As in the majority of his paintings, also here the landscape is missing: the artist wants to focus on the humanity of the character rather than superfluous details. His choice of representing popular, uncouth and clumsy subjects brought him much criticism during his life.
Bacchus is depicted posing and holding a cup of wine with his left hand, as if he was reflected in a mirror. In fact, Caravaggio used a complex system of mirrors to paint the subjects on canvas, just like a primitive photographic technique. Outstanding is the skillful use of the oil technique: the effect of incredible realism in painting the fruit basket and the complexion of the young man as well as the transparency of the glass founded a new approach to art.
A recent restoration has revealed the outline of a man’s face in the jug of wine in the foreground that is believed to be the self-portrait of the artist.
Unconventional, introspective and a real rebel, Caravaggio focuses on the human being, describing the imperfections and limitations of his mortal nature.
His way of painting upset forever the course and history of art.