Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats




Love Rules the World

Light and shade in Caravaggio's life



Amor rules everything, as ancient writers say. All that Cupid really rules is our hearts. Only your Amor, Caravaggio, conquers both hearts and the senses.

Marzio Milesi, On Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio



Amor, Eros, Cupid — no matter what name he is hiding behind, it is always the god of love that is talked about, the driving force in the world. Succumb to his charms at your own peril: "Amor remains a knave. Whoever trusts him will be deceived", wrote Goethe, who surely knew from experience. In antiquity Amor was depicted as boyishly charming and wearing wings. From the fourth century ВС, he carried a bow and arrows.

This last guise was the motif Michelangelo Merisi from Caravaggio near Bergamo had in mind when he accepted a commission from Marquis Vincenzo Giustiniani in Rome in 1602. Nevertheless, Caravaggio's Amor was notably different from earlier representations of mythological figures. His Eros is cheeky, he laughs impertinently, and is aggressively roguish; he is also sexier than Cupid had ever been before. Speculation on what his left hand is doing behind his back fills volumes. All this may have contributed to making the painting Caravaggio's most famous work — and possibly the most celebrated Cupid in history. Moreover, Amor, who also stands for homosexuality and was the love child of the love goddess, Aphrodite, by the god of war, Mars, reflects the duality of Caravaggio's own nature. A passionate lover of men his own age, he could be dangerously violent on occasion.

Caravaggio was a genius who was known for impish humour. He loved to stroll through the streets of Rome strumming on his guitar, yet he also had the reputation of being hot-tempered and was always getting into brawls. This trait tragically cut his career short. After years of impoverishment, he had finally achieved recognition. To show how successful he was, he even allowed a boy to carry his sword. On 29 May 1606, he was involved in a fight, which left one of the participants dead, murdered — it was maintained — by Caravaggio. Banished from Rome, he fled to Naples, Malta and Sicily, where paintings lined his path. At last he arrived in Monte Argentario, Tuscany, hoping to be permitted to return to Rome. In vain. He died of malaria in Monte Argentario at the age of thirty-six, "in squalor and neglect". As the irony of fate would have it, the Papal letter that would have permitted his return to Rome had already been sent.

It hardly seems a coincidence that Caravaggio should have introduced chiaroscuro, the dramatic contrast of light and shade, to European painting, since few painters had as much firsthand experience of light and dark in their own lives as he had.


Amor Victorious
Amor vincit omnia
(Profane Love)
Staathche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Gemaldegalene, Berlin


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