An Artist


An Artist’s Life Essay, Research Paper

Much of the art of the Renaissance was

extremely religious in its nature. The paintings from this time are

almost entirely scenes from the Bible including: the enunciation of the

Virgin Mary, depictions of the infant Jesus Christ, the crucifixion of

Christ, and numerous other examples of Christian iconography. One

would imagine that virtuous, upstanding artists would have created such

angelic works of art. The stunning displays of morality, as seen in the

works of many Renaissance painters, are not always a reflection of the

artist?s lifestyle.

Two examples of artists whose paintings

did not reflect their lifestyles were Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio

and Fra Filippo Lippi. Both of these artists created works that portrayed

Christian iconography with great aesthetic expertise. Among these

works are Caravaggio?s The Inspiration of Matthew and Lippi?s Madonna with

the Child and two Angels. Fra Angelico was another artist from this

same time period. He is quite a contradiction compared to his contemporaries.

Angelico led a very pure life following the Christian morals of the time,

unlike his peers.

Caravaggio, while a great artist,

had a stormy personal history. Very little is known about his life

until it began to be documented in the criminal courts. His teens

and early twenties were scattered with bouts of abject poverty, until he

became renowned as an artist. From this point on, his name appears

every few months on the police blotter. He became well known for

picking fights, threatening people with swords and being arrested for such

deeds. He was sued for libel and built up enemies to the point where

his murder was attempted. He was found in bed with wounds around

his neck and left ear. Because of this event, Caravaggio was jailed

in his house for an entire month. He was forbidden to leave without

written permission from the governor of Rome. However, it seemed

nothing could keep Caravaggio out of trouble. In the month of May

1606, he killed a man who had won a bet over a ball game that afternoon.

After this event, he was left wounded himself. He fled Rome, going

to a patron’s house and eventually moved on to Naples. At the age

of thirty-five, he left Naples and went to Malta, where he was well received

for this renowned artwork. However, this situation did not last long.

He got in a fight and was imprisoned. Shortly after arrest, he escaped

and finally returned to Rome, where his reputation was still well known.

His enemies had not forgotten him and he was nearly killed several times.

He had been allowed hardly more than a decade of maturity as an artist,

but he had established himself in history a position among the handful

of painters whose originality made them genius.

Caravaggio?s rebellious life seems

quite different from the moral stories his paintings portray. The

artwork called The Inspiration of Matthew is a prime example of how his

life is not part of his art. This painting originally showed Matthew

as a laborer. His face and garments were of a common man and his

bare feet were dirty as that of the worker Matthew really was. Because

of his plain appearance church officials rejected this work. To replace

this painting, Matthew was painted again but in the usual saintly robe.

This compromise to the church is just one example of his emotional detachment

from the making of his works. This painting has a great amount of

Christian imagery involved in it. The most obvious is the fact the

painting contains an apostle and an angel in it. This type of work

was created for the specific purpose of promoting the church. Meanwhile,

Caravaggio, even though he was a great artist and designed religious paintings

specifically for the church, led a life not suitable to the religious practice

he chose.

Another painter who seemed to be

quite a hypocrite in his painting was Fra Filippo Lippi. He was orphaned

as a child and put under the care of Carmelite monks. He took the

vows of the order at the age of fifteen, and at the age of fifty eloped

with a young nun and raised a family. Much took place in these thirty-five

years, including numerous transfers between Catholic institutions.

Lippi was appointed head of several convents and was quickly removed from

office because of his sexual appetite within the nunnery. When it

came about that he finally eloped, he had convinced at least five nuns

to run away with him. He lived with two of them and was accused of

immoral behavior by the church of Florence. Through out all of this

activity, Lippi never lost any support from his patronage and still maintained

his fame as an extraordinary artist.

Fra Filippo Lippi never allowed his

adulterous life as a monk affect the content of his work. Nor did

fifteenth-century Italy make any kind of connection between his creative

achievement and his personal life. Lippi?s artwork was heavily religious

in nature. It is possible to say that the gentle Madonnas he painted

greatly influenced Leonardo?s sibylline females. This can be seen

in the painting Madonna and Child. Lippi remains most famous for

his Madonnas, which makes one wonder, when considering his personal life,

if he preferred to paint women in bible scenes. One could speculate

that he liked this best because of his same love of women over the church

in personal life. Lippi is yet another painter whose content is not

a reflection of his personal life.

Not every painter?s life is as detached

from their work as Caravaggio?s and Lippi?s. Another Italian monk,

named Fra Angelico did not follow the same path as these two artists.

Fra Angelico?s life was the epitome of purity, according to historical

record. He was ordained as a monk around twenty-five years of age.

Fra Angelico?s life was one of the utmost Christian morality. He

lived life as a monk and did not have the tendencies of Lippi and Caravaggio

for women and violence. He exemplified what a monk was expected to

be. Fra Angelico?s life, by every evidence, ran its course without

a question, in uninterrupted service to God.

The nickname Angelico was given

to him after his death and could not be more appropriate, since many would

say no one has created art so angel-like and pure. One of the most

common figures in his art were angels. Fra Angelico?s angels sing

the praises of the Lord as if there were no Satan. His paintings

of virgins are seen with the dignity of women, but with the innocence of

young girls. Fra Angelico?s purity in life is most definitely seen

in his artwork. He truly had the brush stroke of God.

The artwork of the church was created

by a large number of painters with extremely varied lives and morals.

Every painter of this time can be said to portray God?s creation as it

was intended, but few can it be said allowed their own lives to effect

their artwork. While the majesty of God can be seen in all of their

works, few could say that each artist?s life and values are shown.

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