• Amarens Roman - Faculty of Medicine
  • Tammo Severin - Faculty of Behavioral and social sciences
  • Peter Vermazeren - Faculty of Law

The Saint Matthew Cycle The Contarelli Chapel The Counter Reformation St. Matthew
Caravaggio, by Ottavio Leoni (1621)

On the 29th of September 1571 Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was born in Milan. At that time there was the bubonic plague in Milan and therefore the whole family decided to move to Caravaggio, a small town near Bergamo. After the death of his parents in 1584 Caravaggio became an apprentice of Simone Peterzano, a painter in Milan. The traumatic loss of his family was one of the causes for the trouble in his life.[1]

Life in Milan
Troubled Life
Final Years

Life in Milan

In Milan he was involved in many fights and even ended up wounding a policeman. Eventually Caravaggio decided that it was best to flee Milan, so he went to Rome in 1592. Because he was short on money, he started helping other, mostly less talented, painters. A few months later the successful painter Giuseppe Cesari asked him to help him with his paintings.[1] In 1594 Caravaggio left Cesari, because he wanted to make his own art. Later that year he made the painting The Cardsharps This painting shows a boy who falls for card cheats. Cardinal Maria Del Monte, a leading connoisseur of Rome, liked it that much that he wanted some of Caravaggio's paintings for his own. In 1599, most likely because of Del Monte, he was asked to decorate the Contarelli Chapel in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi.

Troubled Life

At the same time Caravaggio led a troublesome life. He was known for his fights and he also had a lot of trial proceedings. On the 29th of May 1606 he even killed a man named Ranuccio Tomassoni. This time he couldn't get away with it. All the other times his high placed friends could prevent him from the consequences of his crimes, but murder was a completely different thing. Therefore Caravaggio decided to flee.[2]

Final Years

David with the Head of Goliath
Caravaggio (1610)

First he went to Naples, because there were no Roman authorities. After a few months he left for Malta where he was even inducted as a knight.[1] In August 1608 he participated in another brawl in which a knight was wounded. Therefore Caravaggio was imprisoned and expelled from the Order. After this event he fled to Sicily and after nine months he returned back to Naples. Here he painted three more paintings amongst others David with the Head of Goliath. These three paintings were a gift for the cardinal, hoping that he would give him a pardon, as he was the only one who could do such a thing. However when he set sail for Rome, he was arrested in Palo where they had to make a stop. When he was released he continued his journey, but died a few days later on 18th of July 1610.[3] It is thought that he died of lead poisoning.[4]


  1. "Caravaggio: a life sacred and profane" Andrew Graham-Dixon p. 232-239
  2. "M: The Man Who Became Caravaggio" Peter Robb
  3. "Caravaggio"
  4. "Circa 1600 a revolution of Style in Italian Painting" S.J. Freedberg p. 60-63