Monday, April 11, 2011

Caravaggio's police records

The exhibition at the State Archives, in which restored documents from Caravaggio's extensive rap sheet are presented, is pretty remarkable.  Here are two samples.

First, a poem. Caravaggio and a couple friends were arrested for writing slanderous verse insulting a rival painter, Giovanni Baglione.  [A representative line: "Without a doubt you could call him John Testicle."  Um, good thing Caravaggio stuck to painting.] When the charges were brought to trial, the judge copied the poem by hand, pictured below, with the original tucked into the spine.

Second, here's a pretty gruesome drawing.  In 1600 the philosopher Giordano Bruno was executed in Campo de' Fiori. He had been imprisoned for several years for heresy and other beliefs considered dangerous to the church. On February 17 of that year, the authorities marched him to the Campo under the cover of night, stripped him and burned him alive. If you've ever been to Campo de' Fiori, the towering hooded statue in the center is of Bruno. The document below was written by an eyewitness to the execution. Notice the drawing in the margin of a man in flames.

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