Caravaggio was famous for his theatrical life-style, which seems in keeping with the dictates of the theatrical Baroque era. He was also famous for his artistic innovations and his issues with anger-management. In fact, in 1606, the genius artist fled Rome after murdering a rival on a sports ground. It was once near today’s Via di Pallacorda. And that’s just a five-minute stroll from Piazza Navona, which was the center of Caravaggio’s world!
When Caravaggio first arrived in Rome, he played the starving artist with his bohemian painter friends. But that would change, when Cardinal Francesco Del Monte discovered him and his paintings. First he gave the hot-tempered youth a place to stay–in the cardinal’s own palazzo none the less! Then he provided him with a small stipend, art supplies, and the latest technology in lenses and optics. After that, Cardinal Del Monte helped him obtain commissions from his friends and colleagues, mostly high-ranking prelates.
Despite his vertiginous rise to fame, Caravaggio remained reckless and extravagant. The penniless 39-year-old’s death in exile proves it. But even his premature death could not damped his success. During his short life, he transformed the European art scene. And his vision and methods shaped those of other artists for a long time. Sure, some art connoisseurs found him and his style controversial, or even tawdry. But others recognized that he took art to an extreme and a depth of beauty that would never been seen again in Italy.