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Itinerary: Caravaggio's Artworks in Rome

There is no better way to know Michelangelo Merisi, or Caravaggio, than to follow the tour below, discovering the artist's "perfectly preserved and intact" masterpieces in the Historic Center of Rome.

To begin our journey:

Triptych of Saint Matthew of Caravaggio in the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi


Saint Matthew and the Angel (original version, lost)
One of Caravaggio’s most important commissions was the decoration of the Contarelli Chapel inside the Baroque Church of San Luigi dei Francesi (near Piazza Navona) in 1599 (most likely thanks to the influence of the Cardinal Del Monte, cf. below). Caravaggio developed a series of three paintings dedicated to St. Matthew: The Calling of Saint Matthew, The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew and Saint Matthew and the Angel. The installation of these paintings in the Chapel had an immediate impact, making caravaggismo a favorite style of young and emerging artists of the day. Of the three works, Saint Matthew and the Angel was rejected, forcing Caravaggio to create another version of it. The original work depicted the saint as a bald man with unclean legs, striving to write his epistles as an angel watches over him and guides his hand. Caravaggio’s clients were less than pleased by this original version, and it was probably bought by the banker and art patron Vincenzo Giustiniani or by his brother the Cardinal Benedict. The artist painted the second version in a more idealized style, so as to be better-adapted to the clients’ needs and finally take its place on the chapel wall. Later, the original was destroyed during the Second World War, with only photographic reproductions left to testify to the first version of this masterpiece.

The Conversion of Saint Paul and the Crucifixion of Saint Peter in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo


The Crucifixion of Saint Peter
In the Piazza of Santa Maria del Popolo, and in the church of the same name, one can admire two other works by the master Caravaggio: The Conversion of Saint Paul and The Crucifixion of Saint Peter. Like Saint Matthew and the Angel before them, the original versions of these paintings were also rejected, and the paintings we now see in the chapel are Caravaggio’s second versions, done in 1601. The first work (The Conversion) originally presented a complex composition in which the saint appears to be upstaged by the much more prominent figure of the horse, who hovers over him. This original is conserved in the private collection of the Odescalchi Balbi Family (and therefore shown to public on rare occasions), while the second, accepted version now hangs in the Cerasi Chapel (The Conversion on the Way to Damascus). The original Crucifixion of Peter met a worse fortune than its counterpart in the Odescalchi Balbi collection – that is, it disappeared. Although some scholars claim to have found it inside the collection of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, this claim is generally rejected and unproven.;

The Madonna of Loreto (or la Madonna of Pilgrims) in Basilica of St. Augustine


The Madonna of LoretoContinuing the tour of churches to the Basilica of St. Augustine, The Madonna of Loreto (or Madonna of the Pilgrims) meets our eye. Ermete Cavalletti commissioned it in 1604, to decorate the family chapel inside the Basilica.  The Madonna of Loreto is the last work we can see before we begin to trace Caravaggio’s more sparse and erratic footsteps throughout varied museums and collections of the Eternal City. 


The Penitent Magdalene,  Rest on the flight into Egypt and St. John the Baptist in Galleria Doria-Pamphilj  


Rest on the flight into EgyptThe Galleria Doria Pamphili contains three of his paintings: The Penitent MagdaleneRest on the Flight into Egypt and two identical versions of St. John the Baptist. The Magdalene made up a part of a series of decorations destined to the rooms of the first patron, Cardinal Francesco del Monte (mentioned above). The real-life model for the work was actually a prostitute, who also posed for Death of the Virgin (now in the Louvre); sadly, she was eventually found dead at the bottom of the Tiber River. As for Rest on the Flight into Egypt, it was Caravaggio’s first religious masterpiece.
 

Boy with a Basket of Fruit, Bacchus like a self-portrait, Madonna of the Palafrenieri, St. Jerome Writing, Saint John The Baptist and David with the head of Goliath in Borghese Gallery 


Boy with basket of fruitIn any case, the most prominent gallery on our tour is, without a doubt, the Borghese Gallery, which presents a complete ensemble of perhaps one of the best collections in a museum anywhere: Boy with a Basket of Fruit, Bacchus (likely a self-portrait), Madonna of the Palafrenieri, St. Jerome Writing, Saint John the Baptist, and David with the Head of Goliath, in which Caravaggio places his own face in that of the decapitated giant.


The Deposition of Christ in Vatican Museums


The Deposition of Christ
The Vatican Museums house a work that is extremely beautiful and beloved: The Deposition of Christ. This painting is one of the few works by Caravaggio that has actually obtained a consensus of opinion, provoking admiration on the part of even contemporary critics, among them Baglione and Bellori. Of all his works, this is certainly the most monumental.


Judith and Holofernes in Palazzo Barberini


In Palazzo Barberini reside two Caravaggios, one of them being Judith and Holofernes, famous in its day for arousing reactions of horror and surprise from those who first saw it in all its raw realism. It was so influential that it has seen numerous re-creations by other acclaimed artists: e.g. Artemisia Gentileschi  (Judith Decapitates Holofernes, 1620) and Francisco de Goya (Judith and Holofernes, 1820). The second painting inside the Palazzo Barberini  is Narcissus, dated c. 1597-1599.

Saint John the Baptist (Playing with a Lamb) in Capitoline Museums



Saint John the BaptistIn the Capitoline Museums, rather, one can admire one of eight representations of St. John the Baptist realized by the artist during his career, this one in particular known as John the Baptist (Playing with a Lamb), identical to that found inside the Doria Pamphili Gallery. Bonaventura is also visible inside the Capitoline, and also copied by many who followed the Caravaggio style (Manfredi, Vouet, Finson, etc.)





St. John the Baptist in Palazzo Corsini

Saint John the BaptistOne other Caravaggio depiction of St. John the Baptist is located inside Palazzo Corsini. This version is very different from the aforementioned, as it exhibits an unusual iconography; the youth is identifiable as the Baptist thanks only to the inclusion of a distinct symbology: his staff and his hairshirt, above all.

Useful Information

Useful Information
Links and Locations

CHURCH OF SAN LUIGI DEI FRANCESI

Mass: Monday – Friday, 7:00 PM; Saturday, 12:30 PM; Sunday, 10:30 PM
Open: Everyday except Thursday afternoon: 10:00 AM to 12:30 PM and 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Via Santa Giovanna d'Arco, 5 
Tel: +39 06.68.82.71
00186 ROME 

CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA DEL POPOLO

Open: Weekdays and Saturday, 7 AM to 12 PM / 4 PM to 7 PM
Sunday and Holidays, 8 AM to 1:30 PM  / 4:30 PM to 7:15 PM
Mass: Weekdays, Saturday: 7 AM – 8 AM – 9 AM (July and August) 10 AM – 6:30 PM
Sunday and Holidays: 8 AM – 9 AM – 10 AM – 11 AM – 12 PM – 1 PM – 6:30 PM
Piazza del Popolo 12 – 00187 Rome 
Tel: (+39)-063610836 / Fax (+39)-063203155

BASILICA OF ST. AUGUSTINE
Open: 7:30 AM – 12 PM and 4:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Piazza di Sant’Agostino 1, Rome 
Tel: +39 0668801962

GALLERIA DORIA PAMPHILI

Open everyday from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Via del Corso, 305  – Rome – Lazio
Tel: +39 06/6797323
Full Price: 11 € (Audio Guide included)
Concessions or Groups: 7.50 €

BORGHESE GALLERY

(RESERVATION NECESSARY)
Open Tuesday to Sunday 9:00 am – 7:00 pm
Piazzale  del Museo Borghese, 5  – Rome – Lazio
Tel: + 39 06 32810
Full Price: 11 € 
Reduced: 6.50 €

VATICAN MUSEUMS

Open Monday to Saturday  9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Viale Vaticano, 00165 – Rome – Lazio
Tel: + 39 06 69884676
Full Price: 15 €
Reduced: 8 €
Scholastic Ticket: 4 €

PALAZZO BARBERINI

National Gallery of Art at Palazzo Barberini
Via delle Quattro Fontane, 13 00184 Rome
Hours:Tuesday – Sunday, 8:30 AM to 7 PM
Close Monday, Christmas, January 1 
Single Tickets: Call +39 06 32810
Large Group Tickets:
Fax: +39 06 32651329
Guided group visits:
Fax: +39 06 8555952

GALLERIA CORSINI

Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 8:30 AM –7:30 PM
Closed Monday, Christmas and January 1
Via della Lungara 10, 00165 Rome 
Single Tickets:
Tel. +39 06 32810
Large Group Tickets:
Fax: +39 06 32651329
Guided Visits:
Fax: + 39 06 8555952

CAPITOLINE MUSEUMS

Hours:  Tuesday to Sunday, 9:00 AM – 8:00 PM; December 24, 31: 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM 
Closed Monday, Christmas, January 1 and May 1
Piazza del Campidoglio 1 - 00186 Rome  Ticket Office on Ground Floor of Palazzo Conservatori, Piazza Campidoglio