Take sides in an intense debate among leading authorities on Italian art and learn the possible answers to the question: What makes a Caravaggio?
This exhibition provides the chance to study two nearly identical paintings of Saint Francis in Meditation attributed to Caravaggio (1571–1610). Which one of these beautiful paintings is the original? Could they both be by the great Caravaggio? Both were rediscovered in the 20th century, one in Rome’s Church of Santa Maria della Concezione, and the other in the Church of San Pietro in Carpineto Romano. Both show Saint Francis contemplating a skull. The composition is so compelling that numerous copies were made, even during the artist’s lifetime. Scholars are divided as to which of the two is the original, and this presentation permits examination of the paintings side by side, brushstroke by brushstroke.
An additional loan, the Capitoline Museums’ famous Fortune Teller (1594), provides an undisputed example by Caravaggio’s hand for comparison. Organized by the Muscarelle Museum of Art, the exhibition includes new scientific and archival research as well as enlarged details of the paintings and other technical images—allowing visitors to employ the same techniques as experts and decide for themselves. Together, these three paintings offer clues to an intriguing art historical mystery.