Caravaggio between trials and lawsuits: the original documents for the first time ever at the cinema – Rome

Caravaggio, the soul and the blood State Archives of Rome, Sala Alessandrina | Courtesy of the State Archives of Rome

Rome – It was in Rome that the art of Caravaggio met the appreciation of numerous private and religious patrons, and precisely in the eternal city, between the streets and alleys of the district of Campo Marzio the painter spent the ten most intense years of his life (1596-1606) and made most of his masterpieces.

Anyone who wants to study the life and works of Caravaggio closely can not neglect two places of great charm and precious for the material they hold.
This is the State Archives of Rome, which preserves important original documents on the life of Michelangelo Merisi, testimonies useful to reconstruct events that have seen him protagonist during his Roman period, and dell ' Diocesan Archive of Milan, where instead is kept the now famous baptismal certificate that only revealed us in 2007 as the birth of the famous painter took place in Milan and not to Caravaggio, as believed for centuries .

And it is precisely at the first of these archives, one step away from some of the central places of the artist's activity, such as the Basilicas of Sant'Agostino and San Luigi dei Francesi or Palazzo Giustiniani, the fifth art film signed Sky " Caravaggio – the Soul and the Blood " (produced with Magnitudo Film, in collaboration with Vatican Media, and distributed in cinemas by Nexo Digital on 19th, 20th and 21st February) dedicated an exclusive and unpublished insight, to reconstruct the traces of the great Lombard artist with the utmost historical truthfulness. loved as controversial.

In the historic building of Corso Rinascimento, which encloses Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, for centuries – even at the time of Caravaggio – headquarters of the Roman university, the director Jesus Garcés Lambert collected very suggestive images, original documents, precious and delicate, which for reasons of conservation are rarely exposed to the public and which are mostly accessible only to insiders. Volumes of immense value that will be visible for the first time to the public on the big screen.

" Last September Sky film crew filmed in the Sala Alessandrina the most famous documents related to Caravaggio " states Michele Di Sivo, responsible for the Funds of the Old Regime Courts at the State Archives of Rome. " Especially the papers of the Baglione-Caravaggio trial and the denunciation against the painter by Prudenzia Bruni, the hostess of the alley of San Biagio today of the Divino Amore, who complained about the non-payment of the rent and the breaking of the ceiling by the artist ".

The scholar has had the opportunity to deepen in his research above all the documents that show the accusations that Giovanni Baglione, Roman painter and biographer, formulated against Caravaggio, and to write it extensively in the exhibition catalog " Caravaggio in Rome . A life from life "held in 2012 in the rooms of the Archive and of which Di Sivo was one of the curators.

" The papers of the trial tell us of a lawsuit not only against Michelangelo Merisi, but also to other colleagues such as Orazio Gentileschi, father of Artemisia, Onorio Longhi and Filippo Trisegni, rei, to notice of Baglione, of having mocked him through verses that, among other things, reminded him that with his art « you never earn a patacca », they appealed him as « Giovan Coglione » and other epithets certainly not flattering "tells us Michele Di Sivo.
( READ the two poems on the site of the State Archives of Rome)

Another document kept in the State Archives concerns the diatribe between Prudenzia Bruni and his famous "tenant" , who lived in his house between 1604 and 1605. The importance of those papers is given by the unusual request of the painter, who made black and white to "discover half of the room", to adapt the environment to atelier – here he painted, for example, the Death of the Virgin today at the Louvre, over three and a half meters high – but pointing out that he would restore it when he left the house.
The question of the broken ceiling, therefore, had to concern not the simple floors, but a real opening in the wall that allowed the painter to have his characteristic diagonal light, a modification certainly not provided for in the contract. The woman, in fact, denounced Caravaggio for this reason and for the unpaid installments of the rent, obtaining from the judge the possibility of requisitioning some of the painter's assets, which took revenge by stoning the windows of Prudenzia.

And yet, what emerges from the papers and documents is how Caravaggio was an innovative painter, but in reality, like his colleagues at the time, he led a life that was fully in keeping with seventeenth-century Rome. In this regard, the word that Di Sivo speaks about is "context", an indispensable word for a correct approach in historical analysis.

" It must be remembered that the violence of Caravaggio, for example, was certainly not extraordinary at the time. The painter Agostino Tassi violated Artemisia Gentileschi, and here we should open a long discussion on the perception of rape at the time, a very distant era from ours and how wrong it can be to analyze it with modern sensibility. Honori Longhi, however, chased his colleagues, sword in hand, inside the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, as is narrated in the same papers of the Baglione trial "continues Di Sivo.

Simple scenes of daily life of the seventeenth century, which allow to evoke even a biographical episode of another great artist, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who a few years later scarred the face of the beautiful Costanza Bonarelli, realy to have betrayed him with his brother (the bust of Costanza Bonarelli, is currently exhibited at the exhibition " Bernini sculptor " at Galleria Borghese .There is also the story of Lamberto Motta " life in marble ", contained in the book" La foresta nell'anima ", 2012).

Also Carla Cerati, finally, another State archivist who accompanied the troupe of the film for the palace, there gives an idea of ​​the meeting with the director Jesus Garcés Lambert with the troupe of Sky and Magnitudo Film, remained fascinated by the documents seen well beyond the expectations.
Soon we will know the Caravaggio of Sky: it will be closer to the idea of ​​the "enemy" Baglione – "died badly, just as badly Hive lived" -, to Caravaggio, the accursed painter according to title of the first film about him filmed by Goffredo Alessandrini (1941), or will we have a third, impetuous and passionate, but fully reduced in his time?

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