study days


  • Wednesday 10 May 2017
  • Brockway Room, Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
  • Lecturer: Dr Helen Langdon

Of all the great Italian painters, Caravaggio speaks most powerfully and directly to our time. He challenged classical Roman painting with a new emphasis on naturalism, painting directly from the model, creating both lyrical genre and still life works, as well as deeply moving religious works, which re-interpret their sacred themes with a new humanity. His early works attain an exceptional beauty of surface and texture; he later darkened his colours and used powerful contrasts of light and dark to create a heightened theatricality. His life was no less theatrical and he mixed not only with powerful patrons, cardinals and high churchmen, but also with prostitutes, swordsmen and rivalrous artists. This study day follows the development of his art, as he responds to different patrons and different cities; it balances general chronological surveys with talks focused on individual works, their sources and influence.

Programme for the day

  • 10.45-11.45 ‘He stuns the world’: Caravaggio’s rise to fame.
    Caravaggio’s early years, as he moves from Milan to Rome, challenging Roman classicism with a provocative naturalism.
  • 12.05-1.05 Gypsies, Cardsharps and Whores: Street Life in Caravaggio’s Rome.
    A close look at some of Caravaggio’s famous genre scenes, set in their times, and at their immense influence on European painting.
  • 2.10-3.10 ‘Fear hunted him from place to place’: Caravaggio’s late art.
    A survey of Caravaggio’s late paintings, as he travelled between Naples, Malta, and Sicily.
  • 3.30-4.30 Love and Rivalry: Caravaggio’s Cupid in Rome and Malta.
    A study of Caravaggio’s most provocatively erotic paintings, and the response of contemporary painters.

Tea and coffee will be provided in the morning and afternoon breaks


Dr Helen Langdon is the author of Caravaggio: A Life (1998); Caravaggio’s Cardsharps: Trickery and Illusion (2012); and editor of The Lives of Caravaggio, Mancini, Bellori and Baglione. She has been on the curatorial committee of various Caravaggio exhibitions. Formerly Assistant Director of the British School at Rome she is now a freelance writer, lecturer and curator.

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