‘Medusa’ artwork by Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is exhibited as part of a new set-up of rooms dedicated to Caravaggio and the 17th century painting at Galleria degli Uffizi (Uffizi Gallery) in Florence (opening today, February 19, 2018). ‘Medusa’, the famous painting on the shield, is one of the “stars” in a group of eight new rooms dedicated to masterpieces of Caravaggio and other 17th century painters, Italian and beyond, such as Artemisia Gentileschi, Gherardo delle Notti, Velazquez, Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Rubens.

The new eight-room section has Caravaggio’s Medusa as its centrepiece, displayed against a bright crimson backdrop intended to mimic the fabric shown in paintings of the period. The iconic work is paired with a depiction of the same subject by German artist Otto Marseus, previously misattributed to Leonardo da Vinci.

Shifts to these “Caravaggio rooms” are not the only changes currently underway at the museum. In the coming days, oak benches will also be added, aiming to better accommodate visitors who spend up to four hours walking around the galleries. To avoid infringing on space, benches will be placed in the Vasari-designed wall recesses near the windows of rooms and corridors.

Director of the Uffizi Galleries Eike Schmidt emphasised that the new layout aims to create an “intellectual experience for both non-specialists and experts on the subject”, and to highlight the “international spirit of the period”. Rooms each have distinctly evocative names (“Between Reality and Magic”, “By Candlelight”) and feature artwork from the likes of Artemisia Gentileschi, Diego Velazquez and Gherardo Delle Notti. The final room ‘”The Florentine Epic” is dedicated to literary themes drawn from epic poems such as Jerusalem Delivered and Orlando Furioso.



© Roberto Alborghetti Photos

In Rome, not far from the famous Piazza Navona, we can admire the Church of St. Louis of the French (San Luigi dei Francesi) dedicated to the Virgin Mary, to St. Denis the Areopagite and St. Louis IX, king of France. The church was designed by Giacomo della Porta and built by Domenico Fontana between 1518 and 1589, and completed through the personal intervention of Catherine de’ Medici. It is the national church in Rome of France (it was chosen as the burial place for a number of higher prelates and members of the French community of Rome).

Italian artist Domenichino painted here one of his masterworks, the frescoes portraying the Histories of Saint Cecilia. Other artists worked here (as Cavalier D’Arpino, Francesco Bassano il Giovane, Giovanni Baglione, Jacopino del Conte, Tibaldi and Antoine Derizet).

But the church’s most famous treasure is the cycle of paintings in the Contarelli Chapel, painted by Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi) in 1599–1600 about the life of St. Matthew. This includes the three world-renowned canvases of The Calling of St Matthew (on the left wall), The Inspiration of Saint Matthew (above the altar), and The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew (on the right wall). So, we have the extraordinary way to see great masterpieces by Caravaggio in one shot.

They are three of the greatest and most influential paintings ever produced in Italy, representing the ambivalence of Caravaggio paintings, which, though covering famous religious subjects, reveal a dramatic content (decapitations, crucifixions, depositions from the cross, etc) reflecting the situations of the real life. Caravaggio often used his friends as models, including prostitutes, card sharps, and other folks. One early travel guide to Rome says of him: “He painted chiefly plebian types”.

What is true is that Caravaggio’s three paintings in the Contarelli Chapel changed the way that people looked at painting and influenced countless artists who followed. The artist Cavalier D’Arpino received a commission to decorate the chapel for the French Cardinal Matteu Contreil (in Italian, Matteo Contarelli). Caravaggio was working as an apprentice for D’Arpino at the time, and when D’Arpino became too busy to complete the decoration, Caravaggio’s patron, Cardinal Francesco del Monte, helped attain the commission for the artist.

Contarelli’s will stated that the chapel contain works depicting the life of St. Matthew, Contarelli’s namesake (Matteo is the Italian form of Matthew). The will was quite specific as to what should be painted – Saint Mathew’s calling by Jesus; his divine inspiration to write his gospel; and his martyrdom. Caravaggio had never worked on such large canvasses before, and X-rays reveal he reworked the paintings a number of times.

These three paintings, Caravaggio’s first major church commission, cemented his reputation, and he continued to work constantly until his death in 1610 at the age of 38.





Caravaggio, San Giovanni Battista, St. John The Baptist

Photos: Courtesy of Opera Duomo, Siena – Press Office


Guest Writer: Carmelina Rotundo


 A gently sloping green landscape where olive trees enrich the sscenery, isolated hamlets: in the tangle of branches the buds and flowers in soft clusters along with leavesare reawakening. Here and there, the cypresses, some young, others ancient; the bare geometric vines delineate spaces to then leave room for a forest; the shining yellow; I love this interplay of intertwining branches;more cypress trees in corona, others solitary in the foreground next to glimpses of churches.
How the vineyards climb, and even more bunches of small yellow small flowers glow. Now the landscape is dotted with buildings, factories, now crowded with houses, steeples; the big glass building of Montepaschi Siena stands out.
It is beautiful, this letting go into the weight of a Firenze-Siena journey, united towards the goal: Caravaggio, the painter of the brush of light, that artist that remained in my vision, in my heart when, in the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome, unforgettable, the conversion of Saint Paul appeared to me: a moment of light in time and space; the conversion had so touched Caravaggio.
I continue the climb, up, up to the “Gate of Heaven” where one gaze embraces little Siena from the North, South, East and West, and the tiles as they let themselves be caressed by the Sun; each ray today made luminous the Torre del Mangia; the only one so close to heaven, celestial blue now, the gaze now flies across rooftops of Siena Convent of San Domenico, the Apuan Alps. I cannot be still and I move on the terraces and into the attics that conserve old machines, tools that, used by the hands of skilled stonemasons, managed to obtain miracles from matter.
The gaze returns to inside the Cathedral; the stained glass windows arelight and color;  the arches, marble columns are elegance; statues I now face, at the same height, and from the rooftops, with the gaze and heart that flies from roofs, in the sky we descend into the cave of the heart of the Duomo di Siena, in the crypt where, in silence and in meditation, he appears to me, by Caravaggio: St. John the Baptist.
That brush of light once again sculpts the form: idea-imagination-creation of a work of art that, launched into time, has been enriched by the looks of the citizens of the world who have admired it, always discovering something new and old, strong and sweet, and that light that was caressing therooftops of Siena. Caravaggio imprisoned and “carved” it into his St. John the Baptist.




Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi, Milano 1571 – Porto Ercole 1610)

San Giovanni Battista, 1602-1603,olio su tela, cm 129 x 95

Roma, Pinacoteca Capitolina.



Le immagini sono state fornite  dagli Organizzatori dell’evento, ad esclusivo utilizzo collegato alle esigenze di Ufficio Stampa dell’iniziativa medesima. La possibilità di utilizzare questa immagine è riservata unicamente al fine di corredare con la stessa servizi, articoli, segnalazioni inerenti la mostra cui si riferiscono. Qualunque diverso utilizzo è perseguibile ai sensi di Legge ad iniziativa di ogni avente diritto.



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