Caravaggio, Outrageous





Peter J. Burgard (Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures)
Freshman Seminar 64R  4 credits (spring term)  Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, known simply as Caravaggio, is widely held to be one of the greatest painters of all time. He painted primarily religious subjects. And yet he was in his own time (turn of the 17th century) and remains one of the most controversial of all painters, many finding his work shocking, despite its undeniable and exceptional mastery of the art of painting. His dramatic contrasts of light and dark can be disturbing and render subjects inscrutable that we expect to be clear. His extreme naturalism competes with the supernaturalism of his religious themes. He focuses on the erotic in secular images and insinuates sexuality in religious works.

In this seminar, besides learning how to read and interpret paintings — how to determine what a painting actually depicts, how it is composed, and the meaning of both — you will work your way with me through Caravaggio’s lifework, detecting and deciphering the core characteristics of his art that make it outrageous: how his naturalism exploits its inherent deception, how dissimulation leads to doubt, and how relentless dislocation, both literal and figurative, grounds virtually every image he created. 

Prerequisites: None. No experience in the study of art is required or assumed.

See also: Spring 2023