Vittorio Sgarbi returns to Milan to present a major new exhibition that illustrates the birth of the genius Caravaggio. Reconstructing his artistic training, from Simone Peterzano to the Veneto and Lombard masters, this fascinating show examines the precursors and contemporaries of Michelangelo Merisi (1571-1610), highlighting the works that the artist would actually have seen and what he would have witnessed in the artistic climate that dominated the area from Venice to Milan before he moved to Rome, which according to the most recent studies was likely to have been around 1595-96.
Curated by Vittorio Sgarbi, the exhibition The Eyes of Caravaggio. His Formative Years between Venice and Milanis produced and organised by Arthemisia Group in collaboration with the Museo Diocesano di Milano, promoted by Regione Lombardia and staged thanks to the vital support of Banca Popolare di Milano and Terna.
The exhibition gathers around sixty masterpieces by the greatest painters of the day, which are exhibited in the Museo Diocesano
from 11 March to 3 July 2011.
Works by Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Lorenzo Lotto, Jacopo da Bassano, Moretto da Brescia, Giovan Battista Moroni, Gerolamo Savoldo, Vincenzo and Antonio Campi, Giovanni Ambrogio Figino, Simone Peterzano, and many more, some of which have never been exhibited before, document the formation of a groundbreaking aesthetic and an innovative conception of the human figure and its relationship with space and light, which was fundamental to the development of the young Merisi.
Naturally Caravaggio himself could not left out, and the exhibition includes some extremely significant works. One of these is the so-called Murtola Medusa, the first version of the famous shield in the Uffizi Galleries, which takes its name from the poet who wrote a poem about it in 1600.
This work, which has always belonged to a private collection, was created by Caravaggio in 1596 and can be viewed as emblematic of his formative years, in particular due to the underdrawing which was brought to light by recent indepth scientific investigations. The same techniques have been used to date the shield to between 1596 and 1597, the period when Caravaggio moved to Rome. Conceptually speaking, in this way the Murtola Medusa closes the painters Lombard period and opens the Roman one, when, as Vittorio Sgarbi recalls: he suddenly transformed everything, to the point that the shockwaves of his revolution reached the whole of Europe, and there was not one great painter who did not come from France, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands to see what Caravaggio had done.
The exhibition also includes two other seminal masterpieces by Caravaggio: the outstanding Rest on the Flight into Egypt, from the Doria Pamphilj Collection in Rome, and The Flagellation of Christ, in all its harrowing and sensual beauty, from the Museo di Capodimonte (Naples), in Milan for the first time since the famous exhibition of 1951.
As for his artistic training, in the words of the well-known art historian Roberto Longhi, we cannot expect to trace precise itineraries of his travels (or wanderings, if you will) as an apprentice; but these necessarily took place in the area that goes from Caravaggio to nearby Bergamo, to Brescia and Cremona, not distant, and from there to Lodi and Milan. This was the territory where a group of Lombard or naturalised painters had long kept open the temple of simple art. With regard to the artists formative years, in his 1917 essay Cose bresciane del 500, and in the even more famous Quesiti caravaggeschi of 1929, Longhi states that Caravaggios roads of predestination between 1584 and around 1589should be interpreted as the roads of Lombardy, namely that the art scene in the Veneto and Lombardy regions would have inspired and formed Caravaggio, and emerges constantly as an echo in his works.
Divided into six sections, the exhibition illustrates the artistic context of Caravaggios early years as an artist. Recorded as working in the Milan studio of Simone Peterzano as of 1584, for at least four years, Michelangelo Merisi would have had the opportunity to take in the works of outstanding artists active in Venice and Milan and the area between. The exhibition also features descriptions of the Caravaggiancities, with historical maps.