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Caravaggio, or Michelangelo Merisi, was an Italian painter who is considered one of the fathers of modern painting.
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Immediately following the murder, Caravaggio fled Rome and sought refuge in a host of other locations: Naples, Malta and Sicily, among others. But even as he fled from punishment for his crime, fame followed Caravaggio. In Malta, he was received into the Order of Malta as a Knight of Justice, an award that he was soon stripped of when the Order learned of the crime he had committed.
However, even as he fled, Caravaggio continued to work. In Naples,
he painted "Madonna of the Rosary" for a fellow painter, and later "The Seven Works of Mercy" for the church of Pio Chapel of Monte della Misericordia.
In Malta, he created "Beheading of St. John the Baptist" for the cathedral in Valletta. In Messina, his work included "The Resurrection of Lazarus" and "The Adoration of the Shepherds," while in Palermo he painted the "Adoration with St. Francis and St. Lawrence."
One of Caravaggio's more shocking paintings from this period is "Resurrection," in which the painter revealed a less saintly, more bedraggled Jesus Christ escaping from his tomb in the middle of the night. This scene was no doubt inspired by events in Caravaggio's own life. By this time, Caravaggio had become a nervous wreck, always on the run and in constant fear for his life, so much so that he slept with his clothes on and with a dagger at his side.
The murder that Caravaggio committed in 1606 was not the end of his violence. In July 1608, he attacked Fra Giovanni Rodomonte Roero, one of the most senior knights in the Order of St. John in Malta. Caravaggio was arrested and jailed for the assault but managed to escape just one month later.
According to Andrew Graham-Dixon's research, Roero did not put the attack behind him. In 1609, he followed Caravaggio to Naples and assaulted the painter outside a tavern, disfiguring his face.
The attack had a profound impact on Caravaggio's mental and physical state. His vision and brushwork suffered from the assault, as evidenced by two of his later paintings, "The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula" and "The Denial of Saint Peter."
In order to avoid punishment for murder, Caravaggio's only salvation could come from the pope, who had the power to pardon him. Most likely informed that friends were working on his behalf to secure his pardon, in 1610 Caravaggio began to make his way back to Rome. Sailing from Naples, he was arrested in Palo, where his boat had made a stop. Upon his release, he resumed his journey and eventually arrived at Port'Ercole, where died just a few days later, on July 18, 1610.
For many years the exact cause of Caravaggio's death had been shrouded in mystery. But in 2010, a team of scientists who studied Caravaggio's remains discovered that his bones contained high levels of lead—levels high enough, they suspect, to have driven the painter mad. Lead poisoning is also suspected of having killed Francisco Goya and Vincent van Gogh.
Even though Caravaggio was shunned after his death, he eventually came to be recognized as one of the founding fathers of modern painting. His work greatly influenced so many future masters, from Diego Velazquez to Rembrandt. In Rome, in 2010, an exhibition of his work that marked the 400th anniversary of his death attracted more than 580,000 visitors.
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