Caravaggio, St. John the Baptist (boy with a ram), 1602, oil on canvas, 129 × 94 cm, Musei Capitolini, Pinacoteca Capitolina, Rome - Archivio Fotografico dei Musei Capitolini © Roma, Sovrintendenza Capitolina ai Beni Culturali).
This autumn, an iconic masterpiece of Italian art is visiting Dresden: Caravaggio's painting John the Baptist from the Capitoline Museums in Rome. The Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister is presenting the picture together with more than 50 works from its own collection that show Caravaggio's far-reaching influence on artists of all generations and nations.
Since the creation of the work for the Roman aristocrat Marchese Ciriaco Mattei in 1602, it has been the subject of discussion. Painted for a private collection, the provocative depiction of the saint as a naked boy hugging a ram gave rise to speculation about the message of the picture and the painter's intention. Apart from that, the painting shows all the artistic qualities that made Caravaggio's works so powerful and exemplary. His chiaroscuro, radical naturalism and the completely new narratives he developed in his pictures became ideal. The exhibition shows the influence of Caravaggio on later artists by not only showing how they adopted his art and painting practice, but also,
Caravaggio, St. John the Baptist (boy with a ram), 1602, oil on canvas, 129 × 94 cm, Musei Capitolini, Pinacoteca Capitolina, Rome - Archivio Fotografico dei Musei Capitolini © Roma, Sovrintendenza Capitolina ai Beni Culturali.
The Dresden collection houses an excellent group of paintings by important painters that reflect precisely this legacy. Works by Caravaggio's immediate successors such as Leonello Spada (1576 - 1622) or the Genoese Bernardo Strozzi (1581 - 1644) illustrate how Italian contemporaries appropriated his visual language. In Rome, the creative center of Europe, Caravaggio was a major landmark for foreign artists. Nicolas Tournier (1560 - 1639), Peter Paul Rubens (1577 - 1640) and Gerard van Honthorst (1592 - 1656) spread the Caravaggio style in Northern Europe. Spanish painters saw his works mainly in Naples, which was then ruled by Spain. Paintings by Jusepe de Ribera (1591–1652) and Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664) bear witness to these encounters.
Nicolas Tournier, The Guard Room, around 1620/25, oil on canvas © Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Photo: Estel / Klut.
Gerard von Honthorst, The Dentist, 1622, oil on canvas. © Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Photo: Estel / Klut.
Francisco de Zurbarán, Prayer of Saint Bonaventure, 1628/29, oil on canvas © Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Photo: Estel / Klut.
Caravaggio's art also echoes in the works of later generations of artists. Painters such as Luca Giordano (1634 - 1705), Johannes Vermeer (1632 - 1675) or Adriaen van der Werff (1659 - 1722) prove that Caravaggio continued to be a role model among painters all over Europe. This timeless position in art history makes him one of the most fascinating and inspiring artists to this day.