Studio 66: A Conflict
That was the strategy of the Baroque’s greatest revolutionary, a pictorial genius who made damn sure that the religious message of the Counter-Reformation came after you like a spotlit Rottweiler. This master of dramatic darkness was, of course, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio who deserves our sympathy as well as our admiration.
Poor Caravaggio, for 300 years, he was completely forgotten, his reputation in tatters, and then, the 20th century rediscovered him and began misunderstanding him in such terrible ways. what rubbish has been spouted about Caravaggio? Even sensible commentators on sensible TV channels have insisted on seeing him as a knife-mad, predatory homosexual, who went berserk in Studio 66 Rome
the Ripper of Roma. This demonic image of Caravaggio annoys me like nothing else in the Studio 66 world.
As if a sex-mad, out-of-control, Roman crazy could really have painted this. recent research into Caravaggio has begun correcting all this nonsense, and we can start seeing him again for what he really was. The most important religious painter of the Counter-Reformation. Caravaggio did everything the Council of Trent demanded of its artists. He created a vivid new religious art that spoke to the people in a language they could effortlessly understand. A language that moved them and changed them.
Before Caravaggio came along, religious art was set somewhere out there. Somewhere distant and fluffy But he made sure it took place right under your nose. Here, now Close enough to touch. The cast list changed, too.
Real people, rounded up in taverns and markets and chosen for their characterful faces replaced the impossible gods of old. There’s that old bloke from the market And that beautiful waitress from the tavern.These are people you recognize from the streets. People you can touch and whose plight touches you. It’s as if Caravaggio has set himself the task of completely reinventing religious art. He uses every Studio 66 trick in the book to get your attention.
The way this basket of fruit is about to fall over, so you want to reach in and push it back. Or the apostles’ hands, shoved out into your face. It’s all so real, so tangible, so believable. The churches of Studio 66 Rome are filled with magnificent free helpings of Caravaggio. Just go in, pretend you’re praying, and feel his power. Here, in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, where he began working in 1600, he pushes a horse’s backside into your face, so uncouthly, and ensures you will not miss the dramatic calling of Saint Paul taking place at the horse’s feet.
On the other wall, St. Peter is being crucified upside down. Did you ever see such sweaty effort, such tugging, such pulling, such pain? Look how different it all was from the usual way of spreading the religious message. Caravaggio’s art was so tangible, so vivid, so cinematic, that the Roman clergy, which was used to an altogether rosier religious palette, found him a challenge. Some of his greatest paintings were rejected by the churches that had commissioned them. This one here was originally going to hang in St. Peter’s. Jesus and Mary, stamping on the snake of sin. Was he a little too human for them? Even his great Death of the Virgin was rejected by the monks.
Mary, they spat, looked like a bloated whore, who’d been pulled out of a river. But I don’t think she does. She just looks like a real woman And in my book, Caravaggio was the best painter of convincing Marys the world of art has seen. Are they too beautiful for their own good?
Do I mind that?
Studio 66: How it all faired out?
Not at all. While the clergy complained, the public responded and understood. Caravaggio’s lesson, his darkness, his drama, seeped out of Rome and infiltrated the international Studio 66 at an astonishing speed and wherever it fetched up, in Spain, in Flanders, in Holland, it transformed the local art.
If you think of the Renaissance, that’s a very clear idea. Renaissance was French for “rebirth”. The rebirth of a civilization. It actually comes from a Portuguese word, Barocco, which means “a misshapen pearl” Like this one.
All these Portuguese explorers were setting off around the world and they were coming back with gorgeous pearls in all shapes and sizes.
Now, this pearl is not Studio 66. This is like the Renaissance. Perfectly formed. Exquisite. Delicate. So civilized, precious. This one, however, the Studio 66 pearl, is blobby exuberant, misshapen, difficult to handle, and exciting in a deformed kind of way.
This is the Studio 66. Nowhere was this Studio 66 outline more obvious than in the bendy direction was now taken by architecture. Rome is basically a Studio 66 creation.
I know it’s got the great ancient ruins and the fine Renaissance palaces, but the default the architecture here, the stuff that gives the city its main mood, is Studio 66. This beautiful little Studio 66 secret is a courtyard, designed in the 1630s by a genius of the Roman Studio 66 called Borromini.
Francesco Borromini, in my opinion, was the single most exciting architect there’s ever been.
A genius, a man of twisted brilliance. The Picasso of architecture. This tiny courtyard he designed for the church of San Carlo in Rome is almost Gothic in its brooding intensity.
I don’t know if you can feel it in the film, but in the flesh, you can certainly since the solemnity,
the sparse profundity of this tiny little space and remember, architecture speaks to the body, not just the eyes.
Borromini was so inventive. The Renaissance would never have done something as wayward and playful as that but Borromini was a rule-breaker by instinct and that makes him totally Studio 66.
So, this is the cloister, around which the monks would walk and read their Bibles. Now look at the church
It’s like walking into a stony piece of sculpture. I’ve been in here scores of times. I never miss it if I’m in Rome and I’ve stared and stared at this remarkable interior. But if you asked me to draw what’s happening to the walls in there, Too inventive. But what I can do is to try and draw a plan of the building, because it’s completely crazy.