Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Technical Art Examination.

It‘s always thrilling to work on the attribution of such an important name. When authenticating a Caravaggio a lot depends on incisions. Caravaggio is known for the presence of incisions in many of his paintings which were supposedly made on the wet gesso with the back of his brush. There are a couple of hypothesis on the reason of this unusual practice. The most accredited is that this was Caravaggio’s way to quickly sketch the positions of the figures and models in his paintings. These incisions can be observed in raking light and x-radiographs. Indeed, during the Florence exhibition on Caravaggio of 1992

[1]  raking light was used to let visitors tell themselves the location of incisions. There is plenty of technical examination literature on Caravaggio, here some suggestions:


Suggested readings Mina Gregori, “Caravaggio. Come nascono i capolavori” 1992, the most complete technical examination reference and “The lost painting” on the latest discovery of The Taking of Christ.

[1] Mina Gregori, “Caravaggio. Come nascono i capolavori. Catalogo della mostra” Electa, Milano, 1992. This is the best source on Caravaggio technical examination. This book, unfortunetely just in Italian was written in the occasion of the Caravaggio exhibtion held in Florence and Rome in 1992. Mina Gregori and Roberta Lapucci provides two chapters specifically on the painting technique as understood by means of multispectral imaging (infrared reflectography, X-radiography and raking light). There are no analytical studies of the materials and no cross-sections.

[2]  Jonathan Harr “The lost painting” Random House Trade; Reprint edition, 2006. This is not about technical art examination but I guess, if you are following my blog, you are interested in art discoveries. This was the case told in this book, how The Taking of Christ was recognized by an Italian conservator in Ireland and the archival research of an art student in Rome  and eventually published in 1993.

[3] L. Keith “Three Paintings by Caravaggio ” National Gallery Technical Bulletin Volume 19, 1998. As usual of the highest quality of this study, this paper is interesting other than for the multispectral imaging, for the cross-sections, since there aren’t many on the literature.



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