Academic journal article Seventeenth-Century News

Lorenzo Pericolo and David M. Stone, Eds.: Caravaggio: Reflections and Refractions

Academic journal article Seventeenth-Century News

Lorenzo Pericolo and David M. Stone, Eds.: Caravaggio: Reflections and Refractions

Article excerpt

Lorenzo Pericolo and David M. Stone, eds. Caravaggio: Reflections and Refractions. Farnham, Surrey and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014 + 358 pp. + 118 illus. $ 123.45. LIVIA STOENESCU, TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY.

This major collected volume demystifies an image of the extravagant Caravaggio looming large in art historical literature, and instead presents profound investigations of his historical underpinnings and pictorial idiosyncrasies. Caravaggio studies flourished exponentially in the wake of the 400th anniversary of his death, in 2010, that quickened an output of writings about this most independent and radical painter of the seventeenth century. In this massive outpouring of anthologies, single-authored books, and exhibition catalogues, Lorenzo Pericolo and David M. Stone's Caravaggio: Reflections and Refractions is riveting in its insights, breathtaking in its original methodologies, and standing out as an unsurpassably comprehensive foray into Caravaggio's art.

Since the second half of the twentieth century, scholars and critics have situated Caravaggio's pictorial realism at the core of their critical examinations that appear to imply that Caravaggio's painting is a mere reproduction of reality and an expression of the theories of the psyche's development infused with eroticism. By denouncing the tenuous character of Giulio Carlo Argan's and Leo Bersani's conceptual theories, Lorenzo Pericolo redresses the balance in Caravaggio studies by calling attention to characteristics of his art that have been reductively understood, namely, his receptiveness to the history of his time, to fiction as the best instrument in representing the transcendental, and to the spirit of analytic observation that informs Caravaggio's experimentalism in affinity with Galileo Galilei's observation of nature and its laws. Pericolo's quintessential essay "Interpreting Caravaggio in the Second Half of the Twentieth Century: Between Galileo and Heidegger, Giordano Bruno, and Laplanche" embeds Caravaggio studies in a broader context than is usually recognized and simultaneously fosters a novel understanding of Caravaggio's artistic significance in the context of history (302, 303).

Caravaggio: Reflections and Refractions emphasizes Caravaggism within a global visual arts discourse by asserting the importance of connoisseurship and the curatorial dynamics of the modern museum. However radical his innovations, Caravaggio remained technically disciplined, expressing his pictorial ideas with the skill and handling of a great craftsman transcending his time. In the Corsini Portrait of Maffeo Barberini his stylistic prowess delicately folds into a descriptive technique, revealing the image of the young, cultured, and ambitious future Pope Urban VIII, which Roberto Longhi had rejected as Caravaggio's work but Keith Christiansen thoroughly examines in his pertinent "Caravaggio's Portrait of Maffeo Barberini in the Palazzo Corsini, Florence." Curatorial modes and recent blockbuster exhibitions constitute, in this anthology, a compelling discussion of an institutionally-generated Caravaggio. H. Perry Chapman's lucid analysis of the 2006 Rijksmuseum challenging exhibition Rembrandt/Caravaggio uncovers the curatorial fallacies in pointing out the self-governing and independent creative characters of both Caravaggio and Rembrandt irrespective of Rembrandt's masterful assimilation of Caravaggio's art into his pictorial formation and mature development (274, 277, 285, 289). Also in reference to the imperfections of some curatorial projects devoted to Caravaggio's anniversary, David M. Stone's "Caravaggio Betrayals: The Lost Painter and the Great Swindle" exposes the reality behind a purported display of some seventeen Caravaggio masterpieces at the National Museum of Archaeology of Malta in 2007.

Caravaggio's religious pictures offered a viable alternative to the didactic and rigorous directions of Counter-Reformation art by demonstrating that pictorial energy may reflect current Christian practice, rather than a visual exposition of the Catholic doctrine and dogma. …

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