Caravaggio and His Legacy

 

Edited by J. Patrice Marandel

Prestel

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Over the holiday I was finally able to see one of the most talked-about exhibits of the Los Angeles season.

As you walk into the Resnick Pavillion at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, you can’t help but be overwhelmed by the majestic works of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio in the grand space.  And to see these pieces up close and personal – much like taking in Rembrandt or other works that appear very dark on the printed page and on your computer – is a wonderful lesson in this master’s technique and skill.

The great disappointment in the exhibit is that there are only eight Caravaggio paintings on display – half of them on loan from American museums.  What follows though, are the works of his contemporaries and followers – and it is a mesmerizing introduction.  Artists like Orazio Riminaldi, Carlo Saraceni, Matthias Stom and Gerrit van Honthorst line up next to the master.  We see tales of Christ crowned with thorns, the denial of Saint Peter, Daedalus and Icarus.  Caravaggio’s influence as well as the culture in western Europe at that moment in time begin to tell a larger story, thanks to the careful curation and narrative both on the walls of LACMA and in the pages of the catalogue – which as we all know is the lasting treasure of exhibits like this.

The small handful of actual Caravaggio works is a tough hurdle to overcome, but thankfully this collection introduces us to a slew of artists whom we may otherwise never now, and certainly not in such an illuminated context.