Caravaggio always attracted controversy and by the time of his death aged only 38 in 1610 was hailed as an artistic genius by his supporters but regarded as an abrasive upstart with the blood of a murder on his hands by his enemies. His decisive break with artistic tradition and dramatic use of light inspired a generation of Caravaggesque artists. Whitfield Fine Art
, a leading international specialist in Old Master paintings, is marking the 400th anniversary of his death with a major exhibition entitled "Caravaggios Friends & Foes" at 23 Dering Street, London W1 from 26 May to 23 July 2010. The show will feature important paintings by friends and followers of Caravaggio and by those who were his enemies providing both a re-assessment of their work and fresh insight into Caravaggio himself. Although some paintings will be for sale, much of the exhibition will consist of works loaned from private and public collections.
The exhibition will include works by Caravaggios loyal friends Louis Finson and Prospero Orsi, his fierce rivals Tommaso Salini and Giovanni Baglione, the painters Antiveduto Grammatica and Cavalier dArpino, whose studios he worked in when he first arrived in Rome, his close followers Lo Spadarino, Jusepe de Ribera, Orazio Gentileschi and Simon Vouet and others whose lives were touched by this extraordinary man. The show will help free them from the immense shadow cast by Caravaggio.
Three masterpieces by Louis Finson in the exhibition will include the recently rediscovered Saint Sebastian, painted when he was at the height of his powers and heavily influenced by Caravaggio, whom he knew in Naples from 1606-1610 and before that in Rome. The picture was hidden away in a private collection in Germany for 150 years described as Caravaggesque school and has only recently re-emerged and been attributed to Finson. Finson was such a dedicated supporter of Caravaggio that he bought several of his works and, learning from the master, had a successful career that brought him a substantial fortune. Bruges-born Finson is a figure of primary importance in Caravaggesque painting but his contribution has often been overlooked. Caravaggios Friends & Foes will show him in a new light and present this exact contemporary of Caravaggio as an important painter in his own right.
￼Another recently rediscovered painting in the exhibition will be David returning triumphant with the head of Goliath by Antiveduto Grammatica, which spent many years in a collection in Genoa. This work is a magnificent example of the best of early 17th century Roman painting and the half figure format and use of light echo the innovative changes that Caravaggio spearheaded in pictorial format and style. Caravaggio worked in Grammaticas studio early in his career and they shared the patronage of the two great benefactors of the age Cardinal Del Monte and the Marchese Vincenzo Giustiniani. The subtle tonality of shading on the faces is similar to Caravaggios Fortune Teller and several works by Raphael. It is possible that the picture was commissioned by Del Monte.
Caravaggios Friends & Foes will also include Simon Vouets Portrait of a gentleman with his dog, thought to have been painted in Genoa about 1620-1621 when his work was especially Caravaggesque in character, and St Jerome by the Master of the De Vito Liberation, an amazing example of the fever for Caravaggesque naturalism in Rome at the end of the second decade of the 17th century.