Michelangelo Caravaggio, “Saint Jerome,” circa 1605, oil on canvas, Galleria Borghese

Los Angeles gets a major artistic treat this winter as the Getty Museum recently announced that it will soon be opening a blockbuster exhibition featuring some of Michelangelo Caravaggio’s most iconic and celebrated masterpieces from Rome’s Galleria Borghese.

Three masterpieces by the celebrated Baroque painter Michelangelo Caravaggio (1571-1610) are on loan from Rome’s Galleria Borghese from November 21 through February 18 at the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Caravaggio: Masterpieces from the Galleria Borghese” is a remarkable opportunity for West Coast art lovers, as a limited number of paintings were created by the Italian. Caravaggio famously died at the age of 39 while a fugitive after having killed a man in May 1606.

The Galleria Borghese has generously loaned three paintings: “Boy with a Basket of Fruit,” “Saint Jerome,” and the powerful “David with the Head of Goliath.” “These three masterpieces are among Caravaggio’s best-known paintings, and we are extremely grateful to the Galleria Borghese for sharing them with our public,” said Timothy Potts, director of the Getty. “Caravaggio’s revolutionary genius made him one of the most important and beloved figures in European art history. The opportunity to see three of his most renowned works alongside the exceptional 17th-century Italian masterpieces in our own collection is an event not to be missed.”

Continuing, the Getty’s press release reads: “One of the most admired painters in history, Caravaggio developed a boldly naturalistic style that employed striking theatrical compositions and emphasized the common humanity of his protagonists. His art was both widely celebrated and highly controversial among his contemporaries and remained influential for centuries afterward.

“The three paintings presented in the exhibition exemplify the crucial stages in Caravaggio’s short but intense career (he died at age 39).

Michelangelo Caravaggio, “Boy with a Basket of Fruit,” circa 1593, oil on canvas, Galleria Borghese

“‘Boy with a Basket of Fruit’ (ca. 1593-94) represents the beginning of the artist’s career when he moved from Lombardy to Rome and first attracted attention as a painter of realistic genre scenes and still lifes. ‘Saint Jerome’ (ca. 1605) portrays the saint as a scholar reading and annotating sacred passages in the dramatically spotlighted manner that Caravaggio made famous. In ‘David with the Head of Goliath’ (ca. 1610), painted at the end of the artist’s career in his more somber and expressive later style, Caravaggio included his own features in Goliath’s head, purportedly in penance for his having committed a murder in May 1606. All three paintings were acquired by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, a nephew of Pope Paul V, who knew Caravaggio personally and was one of his primary patrons.

Michelangelo Caravaggio, “David with the Head of Goliath,” 1610, oil on canvas, Galleria Borghese

‘“Caravaggio continues to exert tremendous influence on art today. His exceptional combination of truth to life and drama, and that famous chiaroscuro, gave birth not only to a new style of painting, but also inspired generations of painters with his psychological naturalism,’ said Davide Gasparotto, senior curator of paintings at the Getty Museum. ‘These rare loans are prime examples of Caravaggio’s exceptional talent and innovation.’

“The exhibition at the Getty Museum is the first part of an international exhibition program on Caravaggio aimed at promoting the Caravaggio Research Institute, an international research project on the artist, conceived by Anna Coliva, director of the Galleria Borghese, and supported by the Roman House FENDI through a three-year partnership with the Roman museum.

“The partnership between the Galleria Borghese and FENDI is part of a patronage begun by the luxury goods house in 2015, and is based on the company’s belief that beauty must be shared and spread, and that the incomparable richness of the Galleria Borghese, a reflection of the Eternal City, is a powerful, cosmopolitan pathway to promote a refined cultural sensitivity, both contemporary and universal, in the same way that FENDI pursues in its collections a true example of aesthetic research and the absolute sign of ‘Made in Italy.’

“‘The Caravaggio Research Institute is an international scientific project that seeks to reintroduce within museums the most advanced research to make them producers of culture and not mere producers of blockbuster exhibitions. The Galleria Borghese and FENDI are honored that the Caravaggio Research Institute will be presented to the public at the Getty, a leading actor in preserving, researching, promoting, and enhancing art and a leading authority in the realm of digital humanities,’ says Anna Coliva, director of the Galleria Borghese.

“‘We are proud to support the Galleria Borghese and the Caravaggio Research Institute through this unique exhibition opportunity at the Getty Museum. It is increasingly a fundamental value, as well as a moral one, for FENDI to enhance, support and export Italian art and beauty in the world, its excellence and its talents,’ states Pietro Beccari, Chairman and CEO of FENDI.”

To learn more, visit the J. Paul Getty Museum.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster
Andrew Webster is the Editor of Fine Art Today and works as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.

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