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June 23, 2014


A Typical Street Thug Famous Painter

Around 1600, the time Shakespeare was writing and producing his plays, was a time of great wealth and political turmoil in Italy. Young street thugs like Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio ran about the streets of Italian Cities carrying swords fighting and sometimes killing each other over nothing. Caravaggio, for example, killed a fellow over a tennis match. Or possibly he killed him over a woman's affections.

He was also a much admired painter. A description of Caravaggio's behavior from Wikipedia: "An early published notice on him, dating from 1604 and describing his lifestyle three years previously, recounts that "after a fortnight's work he will swagger about for a month or two with a sword at his side and a servant following him, from one ball-court to the next, ever ready to engage in a fight or an argument, so that it is most awkward to get along with him."" And here's some jaw-dropping scholarly controversy about his behavior:

The women that appeared in his paintings were frequently portraits of street prostitutes that he knew or owed favors to. Often the church dignitaries that ordered his magnificent depictions at great expense to grace their churches and cathedrals would recognize the very women who were plying their trade outside their doors, but all they could do is grit their teeth. An example of his work is this very strange and magnificent work, Judith Beheading Hohenzollern:

Judith Beheading Hohenzollern