The new Caravaggio exhibition at Palazzo Reale in Milan, 29/09/2017 – 28/01/2018
I’ve been to see the “Dentro Caravaggio” exhibition dedicated to the artist Michelangelo Merisi (better known as Caravaggio) which opened in Milan at the Royal Palace (Palazzo Reale) on the 29th of September, his birthday (1571).
I was curious to see if I, too, would be strongly moved, just like many journalists had on visiting this exhibition.
Well, I have to say it… it really did move me!
I easily perceived the presence of an artist with a capital A in all the softly lit works on show. It was impossible to separate the man from the artist when looking at his paintings: the facial expressions and poses of the subjects in the various works were all typical of this artist, a fascinating, turbulent and passionate man who had seen many an adventure in his short life, filled with narrow escapes, journeys, loves and vendettas.
With great genius, Caravaggio instilled his paintings with an air of reality. The portraits remind us real, normal faces we might have seen in our daily lives, as Caravaggio chose ordinary people from the streets, with all their strengths and weaknesses, to sit as his models. Common women, even prostitutes, were turned into Madonnas, Caravaggio making the most of the great humanity found in their faces and poses. Then again, he would also highlight imperfections, such as the dirty hands of the gypsy reading a young man’s hand in The Fortune Teller, or the dirty feet of the kneeling pilgrim, as seen in his Madonna di Loreto (Madonna of the Pilgrims).
I particularly liked the presence of a hi-tech screen behind the panels supporting each canvas: using diagnostic techniques based on electromagnetic radiation and chemical-physical pigment analysis, this screen almost made it possible to ‘enter’ the paintings and so understand the artist’s techniques, and even see the changes he made whilst working on each picture.
Hence the title of this exhibition – “Dentro Caravaggio” (Inside Caravaggio). An opportunity to get under the skin of each painting and appreciate the many different levels of analysis to which they have been subject.
The ingenious solutions he used were most likely due to the fact that Caravaggio was forever in need of money and so accepted commissions with short deadlines, working rapidly from life without any preparatory drawings. He simply used dark brushstrokes for the outlines or blocked out entire sections of the canvas and then scored outlines with the tip of a brush handle, only actually ‘painting’ the finer, lighter parts of the figures. He also added brushstrokes of white lead to indicate those areas where he wanted more light in his chiaroscuro compositions. This meant that Caravaggio regularly used what painters of day called the “tecnica del risparmio” (time-saving technique), but to powerful effect with innovative, even diabolical impact!
Caravaggio is famed for his use of chiaroscuro and this technique can be seen in all the works in this exhibition. Indeed, in his Flagellation of Christ, the drama of the scene is created by the intensity of the shadows and the dark tones. Similarly, the light source in his Martha and Mary Magdalene seems to come from Martha’s hands, caught in the act of converting her sister, a sinner.
I was left speechless! A great show, one that enhances Caravaggio’s greatness and originality. You can almost feel his strong personality. An exhibition that truly arouses intense emotions.
I would, therefore, recommend that you go and see this exhibition as soon as possible. Also because the curators have included some works from far afield, such as that chosen to represent the exhibition, the John the Baptist belonging to the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City (USA).
It is best to book ahead, owing to the high numbers of visitors.
In short, a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Enjoy the show!
The exhibition at the Palazzo Reale opened on 29/09/2017, coinciding with the date on which Caravaggio was born in Milan (29/09/1571), and continues until 28/01/2018.
Tickets, including audio-guide: €13.00
To book in advance, call: (+39) 02 92800375
Online booking: www.vivaticket.it
What to do after visiting the exhibition
Stroll through the streets of central Milan after seeing the exhibition. If you’re new to Milan, sites worth visiting close to Palazzo Reale include the Duomo, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Piazza della Scala, Piazza Cordusio and the Castello Sforzesco (castle and grounds).
Then, if you want to do some shopping, wander down Milan’s famous streets – Via Montenapoleone and Via della Spiga – and admire the shop window displays.
Where to eat
Just a few metres from the Palazzo Reale is the “Ristorante/Pizzeria Dogana” (Via Dogana 3, on the corner of Piazza Duomo, tel./fax 02-8056766). This restaurant, at the back of Piazza Duomo, offers a choice of traditional Italian cuisine, pizza and focaccia.
Also, close by are two restaurants of note: “Cracco” and “Pescheria Spadari”. For those wanting to experience fine dining and great Italian cuisine (but not daunted by an expensive bill), we recommend a visit to “Cracco” (Via Victor Hugo 4, +39 02 8767 74), where Chef Carlo Cracco (2 Michelin Stars) produces some exquisite delicacies. Also worth a visit, the “Pescheria Spadari” (Via Spadari 4, +39 02 8782 50), a historic fishmonger and now on the floor above a bistro offering light lunches, dinners or hearty “appetizers” (the so called aperi-cene = aperitif-dinners) with freshly-caught fish.
To enjoy the breathtaking view over the spires of the Duomo, just a few steps away is the “Maio” restaurant on the top floor of the La Rinascente department store (practically opposite the entrance to the exhibition, on the other side of Piazza Duomo, +39 02 8852 455).
A little further away, but well worth the effort, is the “Salsamenteria di Parma” (Via S. Pietro all’Orto 9, +39 02 7628 1350), where you can taste some excellent cold cuts, wine and gastronomic dishes from Parma and the Emilia-Romagna region. Alternatively, you can have a “Bio Pizza” in a pizzeria/restaurant using organic ingredients in Corso Italia 16.
Milan, 24th October 2017