Rome in the Grip of Caravaggio Fever

At the last count, two exhibitions in Rome are currently show-casing works by the enigmatic 17th century painter who’s known as much for his troubled life in Rome’s baroque art circles (he was forced into exile in Naples, Malta and Sicily after a man was murdered in a pub brawl). The Scuderie del Quirinale is putting 24 original canvases on display in its dramatically dark exhibition space, but tickets are selling like hot cakes. More than 60,000 reservations had been made before the exhibition even opened on 24 February. So you’ll definitely need to book in advance, especially if you want to visit at the weekend. You have until 13 June 2010 to book that ticket.

Another exhibition (closing 25 March) has the more ambitious aim of putting Caravaggio’s entire ouevre – albeit copies – on show at Trajan’s Markets. This exhibition boasts 63 life-sized copies – which is the number of authentic works known by the artist. Film clips add a didactic element. With the title ‘The impossible exhibition’, it does what it says on the tin by bringing together under one roof Caravaggio’s entire works (albeit copies) – the real McCoys are in galleries across Europe and America, so to bring them together would be a mission impossible.

Marking 400 years since the artist’s death, these exhibitions have a high-profile precedent. The Caravaggio-Bacon exhibition at Galleria Borghese was one of the most popular ever staged at the fine arts gallery with tickets fully booked throughout. By the time it closed on 24 January 2010, it had reeled in 195,600 visitors, more than 13,000 of those in the final week.

But there are chances to see a bit of Caravaggio even if you don’t make it to any of the big exhibitions. The following galleries and museums permanently house some of his works:

  • Galleria Borghese is home to several Caravaggio paintings including David with the head of Goliath, Young sick Bacchus, Boy with a basket of fruit, a portrait of Pope Paul V, Saint Jerome Writing and Madonna of the Palafrenieri. (Entrance EUR8.50, tickets can be booked here – in fact it’s advisable to book ahead online, as the ticket allocations are often sold-out.)
  • Palazzo Barberini has Judith Beheading Holofernes and Narcissus. (Entrance EUR5, book tickets here).
  • Galleria Doria Pamphilj on via del Corso displays Rest from the flight into Egypt and Repentant Magdalen. (Entry EUR9, book here).
  • Galleria Corsini on via della Lungara has St John the Baptist. (Entrance EUR4).
  • The Vatican Museums‘ Pinacoteca houses Caravaggio’s Deposition from the cross/Entombment. (Full-price entry is EUR15).
  • Capitoline Museums John the Baptist (Youth with Ram).

These churches also house some Caravaggios – and more importantly, there’s no entrance fee for churches in Rome (although some appreciate donations, and remember churches often close to tourists for mass):

  • The Church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Piazza del Popolo, in the Cerasi Chapel, holds the The Crucifixion of St. Peter and The Conversion of St. Paul on the Road to Damascus.
  • Sant’Agostino on via della Scrofa near piazza Navona has a Caravaggio painting of Madonna of Loreto.
  • In the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi‘s Contarelli Chapel there are three works by Caravaggio: Calling of St. Matthew, Matthew and the Angel, and Inspiration of St Matthew.
  • The Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi holds a work known as Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto.
  • , on via Veneto, has the painting Saint Frances in Meditation, which is thought to be a copy if an original.
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One Response to Rome in the Grip of Caravaggio Fever

  1. thinkvisual says:

    You can walk up and get tickets at the Scuderie, you just have to wait in a line. The show is packed, worse than Tim Burton at the MoMA in NY. The guards tend to be more annoying than helpful. The show is wonderful, though.

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