It’s a real testament to the popularity of this exhibition, Dentro Caravaggio (best translated as ‘inside Caravaggio’), that people in Milan were prepared to join long queues for up to two hours in the hope of getting into see this superb exhibition. Every online ticket on my visit, on 26th December, was sold out but Santa had thankfully already taken care of the logistics.Superb isn’t an exaggeration: this is an exhibition of pure unadulterated mastery. There are no lesser canvasses, followers or workshop pieces to pad out the rooms and provide a break from the raw power of Caravaggio. It’s just one masterpiece after another.
As a show, it’s only the third ever staged at this venue on this most mercurial of Lombard artists. It builds on the seminal 1951 Roberto Longhi exhibition and the 2005 ‘Caravaggio the Final Years’ staged in partnership with the National Gallery in London.
As you would expect from such a popular show, it was busy but not excessively so by London standards. Perhaps this is helped by the palatial size of the rooms at the Palazzo Reale.
This exhibition really does have something for everyone. For those real scholarly geeks it’s the infra-red pictures, showing the changes and technique which add to the scientific nature and gives some substance to the show’s title.
For the rest of us – I firmly included myself in this as little more than a very enthusiastic amateur – it is the sheers scale of the exhibition with no less than 20 Caravaggio canvasses on display. The majority of paintings come from Italy and several will be familiar to anyone who has visited Florence or Rome. Fewer visitors however will have been to lesser known areas, towns like Prato and Cremona and consequently will be seeing their own Caravaggio masterpieces for the first time.
Whilst many visitors will have visited Barcelona, but only a fraction will have trekked to the Abbey of Montserrat a good hour outside the city to see St Jerome in Meditation. It is one of several masterpieces which make up the international loans at this exhibition.
I am an avid Carravagio fan but several paintings were also my first including the Foundation Longhi Boy Bitten by a Lizard. It’s one of several of the famous Caravaggio ‘doubles’ which you will feel you have seen before even if it was more likely the version in the National Gallery in London.
I really struggle to pick out a favourite. The exhibition after all has my favourite Caravaggio: the Flagellation of Christ from Naples. Though the St Jerome, one of just 4 of the maestro’s works in Spain, is perhaps that classic vision everyone one associates with him. I’ve posted the other images so people can make up their own mind.
Prato and Cremona, I’m sure one day I will visit but for the moment there are still a few Caravaggio’s I’ve yet to see…. Thank you Santa.