CARAVAGGIO’S DRAMA: ART, THEATER, AND RELIGION DURING ITALY’S“SPANISH AGE”byKathy Johnston-KeaneB.S. Art Education, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 1984M.A. Art History, University of Pittsburgh, 2003Submitted to the Graduate Faculty ofArts and Sciences in partial fulfillmentof the requirements for the degree ofDoctor of PhilosophyUniversity of Pittsburgh2010
UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGHARTS AND SCIENCESThis dissertation was presentedbyKathy Johnston-KeaneIt was defended onMarch 19, 2010and approved byDavid G. Wilkins, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of the History of Art and ArchitectureKathleen Christian, Assistant Professor, Dept. of the History of Art and ArchitectureH. Anne Weis, Associate Professor, Dept. of the History of Art and ArchitectureFrancesca Savioa, Associate Professor, Dept. of French and Italian Languages and LiteratureAttilio Favorini, Professor, Dept. Theatre ArtsDissertation Advisor:Ann Sutherland Harris, Professor, Dept. of the History of Art and Architectureii
Copyright by Kathy Johnston-Keane2010iii
CARAVAGGIO’S DRAMA: ART, THEATER AND RELIGION DURING ITALY’S“SPANISH AGE”Kathy Johnston-Keane, PhDUniversity of Pittsburgh, 2010Scholars often describe Caravaggio’s paintings as inspired by scenes from quotidian life. A fewsee his work as influenced by popular dramas such as the commedia dell’arte. While one mightthink these are conflicting explanations, close examination shows that a wide variety of populardramatic forms was as much part of daily life as daily life was part of popular drama.Caravaggio’s “theatricality” is the careful depiction of quotidian life, expressed through thefamiliar language of popular dramatic forms, a sort of “visual vernacular” known to all classes.Caravaggio appropriated specific elements both found in a wide variety of popular theatricalmedia and recommended in treatises on oration, preaching, Jesuit spiritual exercises, andmemory models, because they were proven to engage the emotions and make imagerymemorable. Caravaggio went against painterly tradition and filled his shallow pictorial spaceswith sharp side-lighting, deep shadow, and personages based on everyday life to make hispaintings distinctive and to bolster his reputation among the general public, who was fascinatedwith dramatic entertainment. In Spanish Lombardy, Caravaggio saw public spectacles hosted bySpanish officials; the Entierro, a torch-lit procession with live actors and painted statuary; stagelike Sacro Monte chapels filled with polychrome statuary; and action packed and often violentillustrations from epics such as the vastly popular Orlando Furioso, which was frequentlyrepresented in street theater. In Rome, he frequently saw secular and religious street dramas andassociated with elites, such as Cardinal del Monte and the Colonna family, who used variousiv
forms of popular theater to enhance their reputations. In southern Italy, Caravaggio looked toItalian/Spanish hybrids of local drama, travelling commedia dell’arte troupes, local and Iberiandrama and literature, and the Neapolitan presepe for inspiration. In the south, he transformed hispolished Roman painting style into one with rough, brushwork, dark palette, somber mood, anddeep psychological complexity, reflecting the current writings of the Spanish mystics, localdramatists and memory scholars. Thus, the artist’s work serves as a lens that focuses, withilluminating intensity, on the wide range of dramatic forms found in Spanish Italy that werecommon sights in daily life.v
TABLE OF CONTENTS1.0INTRODUCTION . 11.1GENERAL HISTORY OF POPULAR THEATER . 61.2THEATRICAL ELEMENTS IN CARAVAGGIO’S WORK . 81.2.1Sharp Side-Lighting . 81.2.2Shallow Pictorial Space . 161.2.3Characterization . 191.3POPULARITY AS LIABILITY. 231.4SCHOLARS ON CARAVAGGIO’S “DRAMATIC” PAINTINGS . 271.5“THEATRICALITY” IN ART HISTORY . 291.6ORGANIZATION OF DISSERTATION . 332.0SPANISH LOMBARDY & MILAN . 442.1THE SFORZA AND SPANISH USE OF DRAMATIC FORMS . 472.1.1Spanish Lombardy . 482.1.2The Sforza-Colonna family in Milan . 512.2MILAN: THE MODEL COUNTER-REFORMATION CITY . 612.2.1Borromeo’s Ideas on Education and Drama. 672.2.2History of Public Performance in Milan . 682.2.3The Duomo, Center of Milanese Religious Drama . 76vi
2.2.4Carlo Borromeo and Theatrical Performance . 802.2.5The Laity in Religious and Secular Drama . 852.3PROCESSIONS IN MILAN DURING CARAVAGGIO’S STAY . 892.4THE NORTHERN ITALIAN SACRO MONTE. 932.5PAINTING IN MILAN . 1022.6POPULAR PRINT MEDIA: DRAMATIC IMAGES FOR ALL . 1042.7SOURCES FOR CARAVAGGIO’S ARTISTIC PERSONA . 1163.02.7.1The Myth of the Ideal Artist . 1192.7.2Popular Views of the Melancholic Genius. 1212.7.3Michelangelo’s “Terribilità” and Caravaggio’s Artistic Persona . 1252.7.4Caravaggio’s Self-Fashioning via Self-Portraiture . 1272.7.5Caravaggio’s “Divine Madness” . 1302.7.6Ariosto as a Model for a Young Painter . 134COUNTER-REFORMATION ROME . 1463.1CARAVAGGIO HEADS TO ROME . 1473.2ROME: URBAN SPACE AS THEATER. 1513.3SPANISH MYSTICISM AND CARAVAGGIO’S PAINTINGS . 1543.4THE SPANISH FACTION IN ROME . 1583.4.1The Colonna Family in Rome . 1613.4.2Herrera & Costa Bank . 1733.5PUBLIC DRAMA IN ROME DURING CARAVAGGIO’S STAY . 1753.5.1Jubilee Year 1600 and Caravaggio’s Religious Paintings. 1793.5.2The Spectacle of Ritualized Violence . 182vii
3.5.3Jesuit Performances in Rome . 1863.5.4Dramatic Performances in Roman Palaces . 18188.8.131.52 Cardinal Francesca Maria del Monte . 18184.108.40.206 Vincenzo Giustiniani . 1923.6COSTUMES AND CHARACTERS . 1943.6.1“Classical” Attire and Beautiful Boys . 1943.6.2Men Playing Women in Theatrical Performances . 1973.6.3Commedia dell’Arte . 2013.6.3.1 Scenes of “Everyday Life” . 2023.6.3.2 Commedia’s Stock Characters . 2073.74.0CARAVAGGIO’S EXPOSURE TO THEATER IN ROME. 218THE SPANISH KINGDOMS OF NAPLES & SICILY . 2204.1THE SPAIN IN ITALY “PROBLEM”. 2224.2SPANISH ARTISTIC TASTE AND ITALIAN PAINTING . 2314.3SPANISH PRESENCE IN NAPLES AND SICILY . 2344.4COLONNA SUPPORT OF CREATIVE INNOVATION . 2354.5CARAVAGGIO’S LAST YEARS IN SOUTHERN ITALY . 2394.6CARAVAGGIO’S MOVEMENTS DURING HIS LAST YEARS . 2434.7THEATRICAL PERFORMANCE IN SOUTHERN ITALY . 2454.7.1Commedia dell’Arte . 2464.7.2Jesuit Theater. 2474.7.3Neapolitan Playwrights . 25220.127.116.11 Giambattista della Porta . 259viii
18.104.22.168 Giordano Bruno . 2634.7.4Spanish Theater in Italy’s South . 2622.214.171.124 Comedia de Santos . 2704.7.4.2 Bartolomé de Torres Naharro . 27126.96.36.199 Juan de la Cueva and the Proto-Lopean Comedia . 27188.8.131.52 Lope de Vega . 2774.7.5Neapolitan Theater . 2784.7.6Theatrically-Inspired Sculpture in Spain and Southern Italy . 27184.108.40.206 The Neapolitan Presepe . 28220.127.116.11 Spanish Pasos and Retablos . 2854.8CARAVAGGIO’S AMATEUR ACTORS . 2904.9CARAVAGGIO’S WORK AND DRAMA IN SPANISH ITALY . 2914.10RECEPTION AND EMULATION OF CARAVAGGIO’S WORK . 2945.0CONCLUSION: PAINTING AS MEMORY THEATER . 2995.1EMOTIONAL ENGAGEMENT IN RENAISSANCE PREACHING . 3015.2VISUAL ELEMENTS IN RENAISSANCE PREACHING . 3085.3VISUAL MEMORY MODELS FOR PREACHING AND TEACHING . 3135.4CARAVAGGIO’S PAINTINGS AS MEMORY IMAGES . 3225.5PUBLIC MEMORY AND ARTISTIC REPUTATION . 326BIBLIOGRAPHY . 329ix
Special thanks:To my husband, Chris Keane, for his constant love and supportTo my mother, Enola McClincey, for making sure I went to collegeTo my doctoral committee for their advice and assistanceKathleen ChristianAttilio FavoriniFrancesca SavoiaAnn Sutherland HarrisH. Anne WeisandDavid Wilkinsx
1.0INTRODUCTIONCaravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio 1571 - 1610) has been praised and criticized forrejecting traditional painting methods in favor of a dramatic, stark realism that derived its subjectmatter from daily life. 1 The people populating his works often seem to have been pulled from thestreets and placed in a small, stage-like space in which a strong beam of light—like a spotlight—illuminates the scene. Although these city-dwellers were easily found in the mercato or piazza,they were also found on the stages of the traveling acting troupes performing in the same publicspaces. Theater was as much part of Caravaggio’s world as was the young dandy in a plumedhat, a gypsy girl telling fortunes, or a rough-faced farmer tending to his horse. As drama hadbecome part of daily life, Caravaggio chose not to paint urban life directly as he encountered it,1Early biographers Giovanni Baglioni and Giovanni Pietro Bellori both write about the artist’s choice of copyingfrom life rather than studying master works. Bellori’s famous account of Caravaggio pulling a gypsy girl from thestreet for his Gypsy Fortune-Teller has been frequently cited by scholars discussing the artist’s naturalism. It isdebatable whether this event really happened. It may have been a fictional story dreamed up by Bellori to promotehis much-loved classicism and use Caravaggio and his tragic life as a negative example of the dangers of naturalism,especially one that relied on depicting Rome’s low-life citizens. For seventeenth-century historians see: GiovanniBaglione. Le vite de’ pittori, scultori et architetti. Dal pontificato di Gregorio XIII. del 1572. In fino a’ tempi diPapa Urbano Ottavo nel 1642. Scritte da Gio. Baglione Romano e dedicate all’ eminentissimo, e reverendissimoprincipe Girolamo Card. Colonna (Roma: Stamperia d’Andrea Fei, 1642[original]). Giovanni Baglione, Le vitede’pittori scultori et architetti : dal pontificato di Gregorio XIII fino a tutto quello d’Urbano VIII (Bologna : A.Forni, 1975-1976).For contemporary authors focusing on Caravaggio’s naturalism, see: John F. Moffitt, Caravaggio in Context:Learned Naturalism and Renaissance Humanism. (Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland & Company, 2004); JohnVarriano, Caravaggio: the Art of Realism. (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006);Metropolitan Mueseum of Art, Painters of Reality: The Legacy of Leonardo and Caravaggio in Lombardy. AndreaBayer, ed. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004); Maurizio Calvese. La realtà del Caravaggio(Torino: G. Einaudi, 1990).1
but rather translated scenes from his quotidian existence into images using the dramatic visuallanguage of the theater.Due to frequent mention of Caravaggio’s “theatricality” in art historiography, my initialaim was to go beyond these vague metaphors regarding his “dramatic” and “theatrical” art. 2Instead, I focus on the influence of dramatic media on the painter’s oeuvre, specifically, hisappropriation of such particular theatrical forms as bold side lighting, stock characters, shallowpictorial space, and representations of violent action. As popular street theater was accessible toall, Caravaggio could have seen a variety of theatrical entertainments. He could have watchedperformances such as the Entierro and Sacra Rappresentazione, which were sponsored by theCatholic Church to engage the masses; the frozen dramas of the Sacro Monte complexes ofnorthern Italy, where sculpted “actors” enact biblical narrative within theater-like chapels; themasquerade balls and plays hosted by private citizens to display their wealth and sophistication;and street parades and public spectacles sponsored by Spanish officials in Iberian-controlledterritories to demonstrate political power. Beyond the many official theatrical events, therewould have been innumerable popular dramas performed in the streets and piazzas by travellingactors such as those enacting scenes from famous literature or improvisational scenariosperformed commedia dell’arte troupes.I would propose that Caravaggio, having seen theatrical performances, would haveappropriated specific elements (sharp side-lighting, dark backgrounds, shallow pictorial space,stock characters, graphic depictions of violence, and psychological tension) from various formsof popular dramatic media. He did this, I argue, because these theatrical elements emotionally2For a recent interpretation of Caravaggio’s work by a filmmaker, see: Pierpaolo Venier, Caravaggio drammaturgo:Lettura teatrale dell’opera pittorica, ed. Fernando Noris (Azzano San Paolo: Bolis Edizioni, 2009).2
engaged viewers of all classes and made his paintings appeal to a broad audience. To pursue thishypothesis, I explore the variety of popular entertainments that the artist must have seen as hetraveled southward through Italy and I will illustrate the regional differences that existed,assessing the degree to which these regional entertainments influenced Caravaggio’s artisticpractices over the course of his career. My intent is to give the reader a clearer picture of theways in which art, theater, and religion shaped Caravaggio’s world.More broadly, I will examine facets of early modern culture that can be seen as“theatrical” in nature, such as literature, theatrical practice, and popular religious devotion.Through my examination of Caravaggio’s oeuvre and these early modern dramatic forms, I havefound a number of correspondences between popular theater and various aspects of Baroqueculture, including not only the paintings of Caravaggio but also the visual arts, literature,religious devotions, and early memory theory. In fact, there was a ubiquitous presence of populartheatrical forms in Baroque culture. Based on contemporary descriptions of these performancesand the public’s reception of popular drama, I assert that Caravaggio’s appropriation of dramaticconventions was a direct response to theater’s popularity with the masses. For the artist, writer,or preacher who wanted to capture the attention of the public, appropriating elements that hadalready proven to engage the public emotionally was the most efficient means to attain their goal.Thus, the theater served as the perfect model for artists, authors, educators, and preachers, andthis interest explains why scholars have often noted the “dramatic” nature of the Baroque Age.While the general stereotypical characteristics of the “Theatrical Baroque” are an aptdescription of the swirling compositions of Rubens’ paintings, the undulating curves ofBorromini’s architecture, and perhaps even the polyphony of Palestrina, Tomas Luis de Victoria,and J. S. Bach, there are direct links between the paintings of Caravaggio and early modern3
theater, a similarity that goes beyond drawing vague comparisons with drama and that links theartist’s work with specific theatrical practices. Caravaggio’s paintings possess characteristicsderived from particular forms of drama that were easily accessible to the artist, such as religiousprocessional dramas, popular secular theater, commedia dell’arte, and theatrically-inspiredsculpture groups.While one might think that popular theater was an almost universal phenomenon, therewere distinct regional forms. The theatrical sources from which Caravaggio derived hisinspiration changed as he traveled. To describe more accurately the dramatic world to which thisartist was exposed, I explore the variety of popular entertainments that the artist would have seenas he traveled southward through Italy, will illustrate the regional differences that existed, andwill assess the degree to which these regional entertainments influenced Caravaggio’s artisticpractices over the course of his career. I will trace Caravaggio’s footsteps as he made his waysouth from Milan to start his painting career Rome and later, as he moved through southern Italyas a fugitive from papal authorities.Caravaggio was born in northern Italy and traveled as far south as Sicily and to Malta.Italy at this time was not a unified nation, but a loose collection of territories, republics, and citystates—each with distinct cultures. If the artist did draw from quotidian urban life—its commoncitizens, public devotions, and entertainments—as seicento and modern art historians reported—then these cultural differences should be evident in the paintings he executed while living inthose regions.
Ann Sutherland Harris . H. Anne Weis . and . David Wilkins . 1 1.0 INTRODUCTION Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio 1571 - 1610) has been praised and criticized for rejecting traditional painting methods in favor of a dramatic, stark realism that derived its subject matter from daily life. 1 1 Early biographers Giovanni Baglioni and Giovanni Pietro Bellori both write about the artist .
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