CARAVAGGIO's LATE MASTERPIECE
UNVEILED IN ROME
CARAVAGGIO's masterpiece "Resurrezione di Lazzaro" (Resurrection of Lazarus) has been unveiled at Rome's Museo di Roma after a meticulous seven-month restoration.
The oil painting shows Jesus pointing to the figure of Lazarus as he is raised from the dead, in a pose which drew inspiration from The Creation of Adam, a panel from Michelangelo's frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in which God breathes life into Adam.
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In his Lazarus painting, Caravaggio depicted himself, with dark hair and a beard and standing close to Jesus, as one of several onlookers who witnessed the miracle.
The Resurrection of Lazarus suffered over the years from being kept in damp conditions in a church in Messina, in eastern Sicily.
One of the Renaissance master's most important works, it was painted in Sicily soon after he fled from Malta, where he had taken refuge after being sentenced to death for killing a love rival in Rome.
Caravaggio, known as one of history's most tormented painters, was involved in frequent brawls and vicious beatings.
The painting was commissioned in 1608 by Genovese merchant Giovan Battista Lazzari and hung in the family chapel. Caravaggio died two years later, aged 39.
Caravaggio is the master of the CHIAROSCURO technique – the contrasting of large areas of inky darkness with beams of light to accentuate the drama of the scene.
The work is considered among the most representative of Caravaggio's "chiaroscuro" (light and dark) technique perfected at the end of his life, with the light symbolising divine grace.
The painting was created in "the last and most agitated and tormented part of his life", the organisers of the exhibition in Rome said.
Daila Radeglia, of the Higher Institute for Conservation and Restoration, said it was "one of the reference points of Caravaggio's artistic journey".
The artist, whose full name was Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, died just a year later, most probably in Porto Ercole on the coast of Tuscany.
His death, at the age of 36, has been blamed variously on malaria, an intestinal infection and lead poisoning.
In April an Italian art historian put forward a new theory – that the artist was murdered on the orders of the Knights of Malta to avenge the attack on one of their members.
"Resurrection of Lazarus" will be on display at the Museo di Roma until mid-July when it will return to Messina.