The little man in the jug

| Tue, 11/03/2009 - 04:26

Art restorers and researchers in Rome have discovered what is almost certainly a tiny self-portrait of Caravaggio [1571 or 73 – 1610] hidden in the detail of the Caravaggio Bacco [Bacchus] [1597] in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. The tiny image, showing Caravaggio aged about 25, is in the carafe of wine depicted to the right of the Bacchus figure.

The image was first noticed by restorer Matteo Marangoni during restoration work in 1922 but he did not have today’s sophisticated equipment to help him look at it closely and the discovery was not documented.
Recently, using modern multispectral reflectography – an infrared technique which allows researchers to see through layers of paint of different textures – prof.ssa Roberta Lapucci and her team have been able to verify that the figure, with paintbrush in hand, is there. The eyes and nose are clearly visible. Layers of varnish over dark parts of the picture from previous restorations had hidden the image until now.

Caravaggio, whose real name was Michelangelo Merisi, is famed for his innovative use of chiaroscuro [light and shade] on focal points of his works to draw an emotional response from the viewer. He is as renowned for his colourful life as for his art, for he was constantly involved in brawls and, after killing a man in one in 1606 he was forced to flee Rome. He died in mysterious circumstances in 1610.

Rome is hosting the Caravaggio - Bacon Exhibition at the Galleria Borghese until 24th January 2010 and, for the 400th anniversary of Caravaggio’s death there will be a major exhibition of his work at the Scuderie del Quirinale from February 18th - June 13th 2010.

Do you think such a discovery is exciting?