The First Modern Artist: Caravaggio in Rome and Malta

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Two Caravaggio paintings in San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome
Two Caravaggio paintings
in San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio flashed through the studios and patronage circles of 16th-century Rome like a lightning bolt, and the impact of his work on Baroque painting was just as powerful. Yet after his death in 1610, his paintings fell out of the scholarly and public eye. He was not truly in the spotlight again until the 20th century, when his works and his importance to western art were given a major reappraisal.

What are the reasons behind this enthusiastic re-assessment, and what are the implications for our understanding of both Caravaggio’s works and modern painting? Art historian Sara Magister, an expert on Caravaggio and Baroque and Renaissance painting, will guide us through this inquiry. We’ll find out together in the Roman churches, museums and galleries where Caravaggio’s works are displayed, and in the narrow streets and grand palaces and piazzas where he lived, worked and socialized.

We then leave Rome for the intriguing island of Malta. Caravaggio fled there in 1606 to join the Knights of the Order of St. John, and thus receive pardon for a grave sin—the killing of Ranuccio Tomassoni. We’ll see some of the works he painted there during a period of violence and desperation that marked the last few years of his life, and meet with Father Marius Zerafa. The Dominican priest and art historian was instrumental in the recovery in the theft of Caravaggio’s St. Jerome Writing. We’ll also take in the many-layered history and landscape of Malta, for centuries a crossroads of culture and political power struggles.

Join Classical Pursuits on a quest to understand the unmatched drama and intensity of one of Italy’s most important painters.

To learn more and get a detailed itinerary, please contact us.

Panorama of Valletta
Panorama of Valletta

Further resources:

Caravaggio by Gilles Lambert
Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane by Andrew Graham-Dixon
Caravaggio: A Life by Helen Langdon
Caravaggio: Painter of Miracles by Francine Prose
M: The Man Who Became Caravaggio by Peter Robb
The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathon Harr
Caravaggio Diaries by Marius Zerafa
The Artist and the Assassin by Mark Frutkin (a historical novel)

Secrets of the Dead: The Caravaggio Heist

Image credits: Slideshow image of Caravaggio paintings, Picryl; panorama of Valletta, Olga Prystai on Wikipedia
Creative Commons License 4.0


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Rome, Italy and Valletta, Malta

May 15–25, 2022

M: The Man Who Became Caravaggio by Peter Robb

Sara Magister, our guide in Rome, is a lifelong Roman and an art historian with doctoral degrees in medieval and modern art history and classical antiquities. She is the author of the ground-breaking research on Caravaggio and in 2018 published a book on some of the most famous paintings of Caravaggio in Rome, introducing a new interpretation of the works based on philological data.

Melanie Blake, director of Classical Pursuits, is our trip host. She loves the grand scale and scope of Rome and the underrated wines of Lazio.

Hotel Stendhal, Rome; Embassy Hotel, Valletta

12 to 16 participants

Single supplement: US$1200

Cost includes guides, readings, accommodation in double occupancy, two meals a day, discussions, ground transportation, walking tours, talks, excursions, admissions, and taxes and gratuities.

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Travel Pursuits 2022