For my first blog post, I wanted to focus on one of my favorite paintings entitled Boy With a Basket of Fruit, which is also my icon for this website and many of my other socials.
This painting was painted in 1593 by the baroque master himself, Caravaggio. Born in 1571, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is one of the most iconic Italian painters of all time. His name fits in right along with the greats like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael. However, although his skill was arguably even greater than his Renaissance predecessors, his mysterious and often dark way of life makes him a true enigma of art history. As we continue learning through these blog posts, more of his life story will come to light.
Starting with one of his earlier works, Boy with the Basket of Fruit (1593) hangs elegantly in the Borghese Gallery in Rome. It is one among six Caravaggio pieces hanging on the grand walls of the villa. Despite being surrounded by other grandiose works, the young sweet boy stands out. His face is sweet, soft, and overwhelmingly sultry. His eyes stare at you with a deep gaze. His hair is tamed yet messy, evoking a sexual feeling that begins to set in with the viewer. This is a boy, but has the body of a brute man. This painting is strange in many ways. A man with the face of a boy who has a flamboyant nature to him. The basket he holds is overflowing with fruit, often a sign of fertility and sex in academic painting. His drape barely hanging on to his body, as if he is about to put down the basket and reveal himself to the viewer.
We ask many questions here. Who is this boy? Is it Caravaggio, or is it a lover of his? What is Caravaggio trying to say here? What is he saying or revealing about his own sexuality?
These are the questions that art historians have been trying to answer about Caravaggio for many years. How could this prolific religious painter who painted so many works to help the counter reformation agenda but also be so open and upfront about his sexuality. How could he play both sides so easily. More will be revealed about this idea as we explore more of his work together but for now one must see his work simply for what it is. Masterful. Here we see glimmers of what Caravaggio is to become. The detail and realness of the fruit basket is unprecedented. Here there are glimmers of da Vinci's Suffumato (hazy) lighting technique, which Caravaggio will eventually take as his own and run with.
You may have noticed I have provided no theories or explanations on what I believe to be central idea behind this work. Much like a classroom, I would like to hear what your take on this work is. What is Caravaggio saying and why?
Until Next Time,