Rome Art Guide: Finding Caravaggio

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Caravaggio was living in the city of Rome from 1592 until 1606 when he fled to Naples after he killed a young man, possibly while quarrelling over a gambling dept. Artistically speaking this was the most fruitful period of his short life (he died in 1610 on his way back to Rome). Although many of the works created in that period can be found in major museums around the world Rome is still the city when you can see the most artworks by Caravaggio. Most amazingly you can admire the master's work in some of the churches where his paintings were initially installed; making your quest for Caravaggio art a unique experience!
So here are the museums, collection and churches of Rome where you can stand face-to-face with Caravaggio's work!
 
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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Saint Jerome Writing, c. 1605. Wikipedia Commons.
 
Galleria Borghese - This should be the starting point for your Caravaggio experience. The Galleria Borghese, one of the most important art institutions in the city holds 6 Caravaggio masterpieces, exhibited in the Room of the Faun (room 8)! The works are either commissioned or acquired by art collector and patron of Caravaggio, Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1577-1633) whose collection of paintings and sculptures became the core of the Galleria’s collection.
David with the Head of Goliath (1605), Madonna and Child with St. Anne (1605-6) initially intended to be placed at the Basilica of Saint Peter, Saint Jerome Writing (1605-6), probably ordered by Cardinal Borghese, John the Baptist (c. 1610), Boy with a Basket of Fruit (c. 1593), originally in the collection of painter Giuseppe Cesari, later bought by Scipione Borghese, Young Sick Bacchus (c. 1593-4) a stunning self-portrait of the artist, also from the collection of Giuseppe Cesari. Don’t forget that entrance to the gallery is limited to around 350 persons every 3 hours, so booking is essential!
 
Galleria Borghese is located in the Villa Borghese Park. Tickets from € 15. Ticket reservations are required for all visitors. Roma Pass holders have to book by phone at +39 06 32810.

 
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica - Palazzo Barberini, one of the two locations housing the Galleria’s collection, is the home of four Caravaggios:
John the Baptist (John in the Wilderness) (c. 1604), a surprisingly “stripped” depiction of the Saint without his indentifying symbols, Saint Francis in Prayer (c. 1606), Narcissus (c. 1597-99), a rare mythological subject for the artist and Judith Beheading Holofernes (1599-1602), a dramatic depiction of the biblical story which proved to be heavily influential when first presented, counting Artemisia Gentileschi and other artists as admirers of the painting!
 
Via delle Quattro Fontane, 13. Tickets for Palazzo Barberini & Galleria Corsini: € 10.

 
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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, The Fortune Teller, c. 1597. Wikipedia Commons.
 
Musei Capitolini - The Museums’ Pinacoteca. Located on the second floor of the Palazzo dei Conservatori, exhibits two very important works by Caravaggio: Another John the Baptist (Youth with a Ram) (1602), a rather refined copy of his own painting of John the Baptist and The Fortune Teller (c. 1597), the genre piece depicting a gypsy women reading the palm of a young man when in fact she steals his ring! A later version of The Fortune Teller (c. 1595) can be seen at the Louvre Museum, Paris!
 
Piazza del Campidoglio, 1. Admission: € 15

 
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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, John the Baptist, c. 1602. Wikipedia Commons.

Doria Pamphilj Gallery - The privately owned collection of the Doria Pamphilj family is housed in a charming Palazzo facing Via del Corso, right in the heart of Rome! Three Caravaggio paintings belong to the family's collection: Rest on the Flight into Egypt (c. 1597), a painting considered as the first large scale work done by Caravaggio, Penitent Magdalene (c. 1594–1595), modeled after a prostitute named Anna Bianchini and the famous John the Baptist also known as the Mattei Baptist (c. 1602), an immensely popular artwork. Caravaggio was inspired by Michelangelo’s frescos at the Sistine Chapel but used his adolescent assistant Cecco as a model to nude-depict one of the most important saints in Christian faith!
 
Via del Corso, 305. Admission: € 12

 
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Entombment of Christ, c. 1603. Wikipedia Commons.
 
Vatican Museums - The Entombment of Christ was painted in 1603-4 for the Vittrice Chapel of Santa Maria in Vallicella (a.k.a. Chiesa Nuova, at Corso Vittorio Emanuele). Caravaggio was heavily influenced by the work of Michelangelo, especially in the positioning of the body of Christ, creating an iconic artework which, in turn, proved very influential for later artists such as Rubens and Guy François.
 
Viale Vaticano. Admission: € 16 (Full entry ticket “Skip the Line” € 16.00 + 4.00 (with booking on the official Vatican Museums website)


Odescalchi Balbi Collection - The Conversion of Saint Paul is the first version of the Conversion on the Way to Damascus (1601) at the Santa Maria del Popolo which was rejected. The rejection though had nothing to do with the painting being provocative or unconventional (as it happened with other commissions that Caravaggio was involved with) as the second version is far more daring and non-traditional than this first one.
 
Piazza Santi Apostoli, 80. The collection is privately owned and can be visited only upon request!

 
Villa Ludovisi - The Villa, located in Via Aurora, just off Via Vittorio Veneto, hosts a rather unusual artwork by Caravaggio: Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto (c. 1597), one of the two mythological themed works by the artist, is often mistaken as a fresco, as it is painted on the ceiling of the garden casino but is, in fact, an oil painting on plaster. This artwork was also commissioned by Cardinal Del Monte and it is a remarkable exercise on perspective.
 
Via Aurora, 6342. The Villa is a privately owned property and can be visited only upon request!

 
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Left: Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Conversion of Saint Paul on the Road to Damascus, c. 1601. Wikipedia Commons. Right: Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Crucifixion of Saint Peter, c. 1601. Wikipedia Commons.
 
Santa Maria del Popolo - The famous landmark at the edge of Piazza del Popolo (even more famous in the recent years after it was featuring in Dan Brown’s Illuminati best-seller) is a popular sightseeing spot for its two Caravaggio paintings located at the Cerasi Chapel: The Conversion on the Way to Damascus (1601), a large painting depicting the moment of St Paul’s conversion to Christianism and Crucifixion of Saint Peter (1601), a powerful composition showing the moment of the erection of the cross where St Peter was to be crucified upside down.  The altarpiece in the centre of the chapel, between the two paintings by Caravaggio is my Annibale Caracci!
 
Piazza del Popolo, 12. Admission is free.

 
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Madonna of Loreto, c. 1604. Wikipedia Commons.
 
Sant'Agostino - This 15th century church near Piazza Navona is filled with treasures: a fresco of the Prophet Isaiah by Raphael, works by Sansovino and Guercino and, most notably, Caravaggio’s Madonna di Loreto, located in the Cavalletti Chapel! The painting caused quite uproar when first installed for the depiction of Madonna as a commoner with bare feet and ordinary (not exalted or idealized) looks!
 
Via di Sant'Eustachio, 19. Admission is free.

 
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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Calling of Saint Matthew, c. 1600. Wikipedia Commons.
 
San Luigi dei Francesi - Not far from Sant’ Agostino, San Luigi, the national church of France in Rome, holds three masterpieces by Caravaggio in the Contarelli Chapel: The Inspiration of Saint Matthew, The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew and The Calling of St Matthew! Ordered by Cardinal Del Monte, an important patron of arts and a key-figure behind the artist’s most famous artworks, the three canvases are masterpieces of light and shadow as he demonstrated his chiaroscuro in the most effective way for this dark and gloomy Contarelli Chapel!
 
Piazza di S. Luigi de' Francesi. Admission is free.
 
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