Caravaggio’s Dilemma: Another Effed-Up Artist & the Double-Edged Sword of Genius

Caravaggio was a crazy bastard who lost his parents at an early age and died miserably. But he was also a great and visionary artist, so some slack must be cut (as I’m partial to artists, especially crazy ones who lost their parents at an early age). Here follows my essay…

As the 16th Century drew to a close, Michelangelo Merisi, known as “Caravaggio”, lived his short, turbulent life as a dance between violence and beauty. At age six, he was orphaned, when he lost his family to the bubonic plague. Scarred by this loss that would haunt him throughout his days, he became a child of the streets. And by the time he was a young man, he had adopted as his personal motto: nec spe, nec metu, “without hope, without fear”, as he lived a life of risk and indulgence. Drink, gambling, prostitutes, fighting. His saving grace, that he was the most gifted artist of his day, his talent soon recognized upon his arrival in Rome in 1592. In art, a revolutionary, he single-handedly began what would become known as “The Baroque” style, with its dynamic perspective, its dramatic use of light and shadow, and its realistic depiction of not only the outer Man, but the inner Man as well. So in this sense, Caravaggio was the first “modern” painter, anticipating

the 20th Century artists’ struggle by three hundred years; of making visible Man’s psychology and psyche. But he also portrayed his religious subjects in a less than flattering light, populating his paintings with beggars, thieves, prostitutes, and salacious young boys; people of whom he was all too familiar. In life, Caravaggio was his own worst enemy, as his artistic triumphs were almost always undone by his relentless personal demons. In 1606, a drunken argument led to a bloody brawl and a death at his hands. And he fled Rome as a murderer, one step ahead of a death sentence. Thus ensued the pattern of

the rest of his life. Wherever he went, or rather, whatever city he escaped to, he would become its most important and acclaimed artist. But his truculent nature would explode into more violence, and he’d flee once again. From Rome to Naples to Malta to Sicily, and back to Naples, where his face was disfigured in an especially brutal fight, his belongings, including his paintings, were confiscated, and he fell ill and was overcome by fever. And at age 38, he died, impoverished and alone, to be buried in a pauper’s grave. (What’s up with artists?!) Today’s drink, “Caravaggio’s Dilemma”, was created in his honor, and for all those who wrestle with demons, and do battle with light and shadows…


CARAVAGGIO’S DILEMMA 2 parts Broker’s London Dry Gin
 ½ part Chambord
 ¼ part Crème Yvette 
splash of Grenadine
 ½ part fresh-squeezed Lemon juice
 dash of Fee Brothers Plum bitters Shake over ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 
Garnish with 3 fresh raspberries on a pick.


The artist painted himself as the beheaded Goliath.


Irascible, Caravaggio beat up a waiter when his order of artichokes was not to his liking.


And check out my RETRO COCKTAIL that inspired this... Retro Cocktail for May: Clover Club

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