By Claudio Assandri
One fine morning, twelve years ago, I woke up to a realization…
One fine morning…
One fine morning, twelve years ago, I woke up to a realization: I could be the first to finally find Caravaggio’s studio. I had been feverishly reading all the books I could find about him for years then, and in several of them there had been a mention about the one and only studio that he possessed as a sole tenant. All other studio locations, as far as we could know, were temporary or prolongued ‘guest’ accomodations… Michelangelo Merisi, or Meriggi, Amerisi or Amerigi, as written in the many sources of those times, was the same Artist we know by the name of Caravaggio.
“As an Artist myself… “
As an Artist myself, I felt admiration since I was very young for this man. He, like no other, could represent the true optical truth of his time, rendering immortal visions of absolute reality and its intrinsic poetry, making the very poetry visible, tangible… smellable. The worth of this Artist was somewhat forgotten for more than two centuries, as other Artists and fashionable painting stiles supplanted the era of the Baroque. But Caravaggio was not just a Baroque painter. He embodied all of the genius of an entire era. Italy, in the latter part of the 1500’s was still the crib and crucible of the Reinaissance, or better yet, il Rinascimento.
“Italy was then the living proof”
Italy was then the living proof that the dark centuries that followed the disintegration of the last unifying culture of the continent, the Roman Empire, were only a long parenthesis of amnesia that divided the conciousness of a myriad of small bickering countries, counties, fiefdoms, principates, kingdoms and republics from their own belonging to a greater soul: Italy was the true incarnation of european potential for unifying fullfillment and enlightenment through the Arts, Sciences and Beauty.
“This small and peculiar landmass…“
This is not to say that Italy, at the time, was not itself a troubled and war-torn land… Italia, cradle to Rome’s greatness and law, Italy, birthplace of innumerable and enlightened Artists and Legislators, Philosofers and Scientists, Heretics and visionaries… many of them women, most of them men, some of them undefinable except in humanistic terms. This small and peculiar shaped boot-like landmass protruding its mountanously back-boned body into the cobalt depths of the Mediterranean was also the seething smeltering furnace of the foundry insane dogmas of obtuse intolerance as well. Joyous valleys strewn amidst stern ridges of chestnut and oak, laughingly counterpoised to coastal flatlands immersed in marshes malaric and void, giving way to cities enjewelled by architectural wonders fruit of the absoulute best that human genius could produce: it was Italy that beckoned the peoples of Europe to a wonderous, possible and incomparable future humanity…
“In the shallow half-light of the second floor…”
In the shallow half-light of the second floor of the studio at dusk, the two openings in the tiled roof are letting in enough light to discern a pile of different fabrics in a corner… velvets broquaded, white linens, even some persian wool rugs, all heaped there to occupy the least space. The nearby convent is sounding the Vespro, evening’s call to prayer to the virgin. A table is strewn with small bowls of mineral colour powders along with rather overmature fruits and a few uncooked artichockes. Michelangelo stirs groggily as he clears his hoarse throat… the air is still and warm. The sky of Rome screeches to the sound of swallows hunting the last insects in sweeping acrobatic swoops before retiring to their nests in the tiled rooves. Above all this, in the dim light of the studio, reign sovreign the smells of turpentine and linseed oil. The walls are painted almost black, very dark brown in the lightest points. He did it to have no refracted light from white walls contaminating the models as he removed tiles to create a singular lighting source above the subject. He also removed a few tiles above his painting position, so that the canvas would have the same lighting condition as the model. Instictively, he reaches for the caraf at the side of the bed. It still contains wine and he finishes it. The man called Caravaggio clears his throat once again and reaches for one of the swords that lean against the wall and descends to the first floor to get ready for the evening.