Michelangelo Caravaggio 1571-1610 BACK

Caravaggio was born in Milan, where his father, Fermo Merisi, was a household administrator and architect-decorator to the Marchese of Caravaggio. His mother, Lucia Aratori, came from a propertied family of the same district. In 1576 the family moved to Caravaggio to escape a plague which ravaged Milan. Caravaggio's father died there in 1577 and his mother in 1584. It is assumed that the artist grew up in Caravaggio, but his family kept up connections with the Sforza and with the powerful Colonna family, who were allied by marriage with the Sforzas, and destined to play a major role later in Caravaggio's life. In 1584 he was apprenticed for four years to the Lombard painter Simone Peterzano, described in the contract of apprenticeship as a pupil of Titian. Caravaggio appears to have stayed in the Milan-Caravaggio area after his apprenticeship ended, but it is possible that he visited Venice and saw the works of Giorgione, whom Federico Zuccaro later accused him of imitating, and Titian. He would also have become familiar with the art treasures of Milan, including Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, and with the regional Lombard art, a style which valued simplicity and attention to naturalistic detail and was closer to the naturalism of Germany than to the stylised formality and grandeur of Roman Mannerism.

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