Watch out, Michelangelo—it appears that the depraved, scandalous, and murderous Italian painter Caravaggio resonates with modern audiences a tad more than the paragon of Renaissance beauty. That’s the opinion of a historian who surveyed scholarly matter on both painters over the last 50 years—books, papers, catalogs—and concluded that Caravaggio has been gaining. Writer Michael Kimmelman believes it is precisely the painter's outré nature and apparent disdain for those who would chronicle his life that enamors us of him.
The research, Kimmelman writes in the New York Times, corroborates “evidence plain to anybody in or out of art academe or who has browsed for scarves in Italian airports where motifs of Caravaggio’s Bacchus and head of Goliath have become as ubiquitous as coasters bearing bits of David’s anatomy.” But why? For one, Caravaggio’s “hyperrealist” art was “coarse not godly,” and appealed to the unwashed masses in his time—so why not now? And he “left behind no drawings, no letters, no will or estate record, only police and court records,” Kimmelman writes, making him “a perfect Rorschach for our obsessions.”