Caravaggio Guest Post on 3PP

Hello everyone! Today I am honored to have a guest post featured on Three Pipe Problem. I recently received a copy of the new catalog Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome. My post covers information from the catalog (and elsewhere) regarding the attribution of a new Caravaggio painting, Saint Augustine (c. 1600, see left).

Please take a look! Enjoy!

Image credit: Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

  • Val S. says:

    I wasn't able to leave a comment on 3PP (I've had this problem with other blogs, too, but haven't taken the trouble to figure it out yet) so I'm going to post my comment here, where it's nice and comfy.

    I am also skeptical about whether this is a Caravaggio painting, but obviously am not an expert. It just doesn't look edgy or dynamic enough to be a Caravaggio. However, the Capitoline version of The Card Sharps is not typical of Caravaggio's style either. But this St. Augustine just looks too sweet.

    I remember learning that one clue to Caravaggio's work was the incised lines showing that he sketched in the composition using, perhaps, the handle of his brush. I wonder if that is something they found on this painting.

    (Excellent post, as usual!)

  • M says:

    Val S., I agree with you. This painting doesn't look like Caravaggio's other works. I don't know if you've looked at the other comments on 3PP, but other people have said the same thing: this painting is "less edgy" than many of Caravaggio's other works. But who knows? Perhaps Caravaggio was painting to satisfy the request of a patron.

    I hadn't heard that Caravaggio used the handle of his brush before! That's really interesting! I'll have to see if I can find more information about that.

  • Val S. says:

    Yes, I have looked at the other comments, and I think I have fixed my problem about not being able to comment.

    I thought the incised lines were covered in Howard Hibbard's book, but I recall now that it was an essay and I don't remember the author. I remember he specifically cited The Martyrdom of St. Matthew. This would have been in my undergrad days at UW, around 1986-87. I'm not sure if he said they were made by a paintbrush, but that's how I imagined it.

  • M says:

    Thanks for the tips! I'll see what I can find on the topic.

  • R says:

    I received an email alert months ago concerning this newly discovered Caravaggio.I,like others who have commented, am very dubious about the authenticity of this piece.The strength and power his works possess are nowhere to be found in this one. Seems that any 17th century painting with a slight hint of tenebrism or chiaroscuro is quick to be labeled a Caravaggio.

    In recent times "Caravaggios" seem to have been popping out of the woodwork.A number of years back I had gone to Malta for a Caravaggio exhibition which also boasted newly discovered works. Expectations were high as it was to be a major event. Scholars and authorities on Caravaggio attended a preview before the official opening. As a result most of the so called newly discovered paintings were removed. In the final show there were three authentic works and maybe five which scholars have not all agreed upon.

    I remember reading an article which stated a Caravaggio entering the market today(this was a few years back) would fetch at least 30 million dollars. Does that have anything to do with new Caravaggios popping up?

    To comment on the August 22 post by Val S. I think you meant to say the Capitolini's version of the Fortune Teller. The other version is in the Louvre while The Card Sharps is in the collection of the Kimbell Museum. But yes his early works give little or no clue as to what was to come.

    Whether this new work is a Caravaggio or not I'm looking forward to the exhibition. The National Gallery in Ottawa(where is show is currently running) has a few video clips on their website from the exhibit. Lots of beautiful works.

  • Val S. says:

    R, yes, I realized my mistake when I started looking through my Hibbard *Caravaggio*. But while I was looking through the book I was struck by the variations in Caravaggio's style, and also noticed a model that looks very like this St. Augustine (see Madonna of the Rosary). I've wondered before if his style varied depending not only on the client, but how desperate he was for money!

  • M says:

    Hi R! Thanks for your comment. (And welcome to my blog! I don't believe that you have commented before.)

    I think that there definitely could be some correlation between these "new" Caravaggios and the art market. That's a good point. I really hope that more findings are published about "Saint Augustine" soon, perhaps after the upcoming symposium on the painting. Like others, I am skeptical, but I'm trying very hard to reserve judgment! If you end up seeing the show in Canada, please let me know what you think of "Saint Augustine" after seeing it in the same space with other works by Caravaggio.

    Thanks for mentioning the videos on the National Gallery of Canada site. I just found them on the museum website. If anyone is interested, you can watch them HERE. There is also an introductory video on the main page for the exhibition, found HERE.

    Val S., I think you have a good point about how Caravaggio's style might look a little different to satisfy the requests of his patron. I've wondered the same thing at times. And I can see a similarity between the Saint Augustine model and the man on the right side of the "Madonna of the Rosary" painting. That's a more convincing comparison than the ones that were presented in the catalog by Cappelletti! Good eye!

  • R says:

    Hi Val S., yes that figure on the right in the Madonna of the Rosary does bear a strong resemblance to the St. Augustine. Wonder if it is the same model? That is a practice he held throughout his career.

    To me the variations in style occur when he was commissioned to repaint,almost verbatim, works like The Fortune Teller, the Lute Player and Boy bitten by a Lizard. Whether he wasn't enthusiastic about having to tread over familiar territory or as you suggest maybe the client or money was the issue one can only speculate. Looking at it from an artists stand point I think all of the above would explain the discrepancies in those early works. When he had to reconceive compositions like the Conversion of Saul and Saint Matthew and the Angel he maintained stylistic consistency. Within his later paintings the variations, I believe were due the circumstances surrounding his life. Not being able to stay too long in any one given area economy of effort would have been of supreme importance.

    M, thank you for welcoming me to your blog. I won't see the show in Canada but when it comes to Texas. It's going to be held at the Kimbell from October through early January.

    On the topic of new Caravaggios a few months before the St. Augustine made an appearance, the Vatican claimed to have a newly discovered work,a St. Lawrence. But it was quickly and unanimously dismissed. That finding came shortly and I might add conveniently on the heels of the 400th anniversary of Caravaggio's death like the discovery of his bones and death certificate which reporters were quick to notice.

    It's difficult to judge a work of art from an image on the web.I was skeptical when the Met purchased the second version of the Lute Player. At first I didn't believe it was a Caravaggio but upon seeing it in the flesh and next to other Caravaggio's it convinced me.The quality and handling of the paint was reminiscent of other works of that period. Perhaps Saint Augustine will make a believer out of me.

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This blog focuses on making Western art history accessible and interesting to all types of audiences: art historians, students, and anyone else who is curious about art. Alberti’s Window is maintained by Monica Bowen, an art historian and professor.