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The Brilliance of Caravaggio: Four Paintings in Focus

The Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) presents four important paintings by Caravaggio in conversation with works from the Museum’s permanent collection. The exhibition marks the first time in more than a decade that four paintings by this renowned Italian artist have been on view together in the United States and only the second showing ever of Caravaggio’s work at the Toledo Museum of Art. A single composition by the artist was shown at the Museum in 1951.

Caravaggio’s theatrical works will appear alongside examples of paintings by Italian, French, Dutch and Spanish artists from TMA’s collection to demonstrate the breadth and intensity of his influence.

Exhibition Overview

The Caravaggio paintings featured in the exhibition include genre scenes and Christian saints, all produced in the 1590s in the initial years after the artist’s arrival in Rome. The Cardsharps (ca. 1595), one of Caravaggio’s most highly regarded endeavors, presents players engaged in a game of primero — a precursor of poker — in which deceit prevails. It was acquired by Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, who would provide Caravaggio quarters in his palace. This set the stage for the artist to work in a public forum. The painting inspired other artists to create works that highlight related themes. 

Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy (ca. 1595-96), Caravaggio’s first religious painting, presents the 13th-century saint’s vision of his miraculously receiving the signs of the stigmata, the wounds left in Christ’s body by the Crucifixion. The nocturnal scene includes an angel that offers spiritual comfort to the recumbent saint. The Musicians (1597) and Martha and Mary Magdalene (ca. 1598) are also among Caravaggio’s paintings on view.

The paintings from TMA’s collection on display reflect the stimulus that Caravaggio provided to his contemporaries. Valentin de Boulogne’s Fortune-Teller with Soldiers (ca. 1620) features a lively scene of soldiers drinking while one has his fortune told — and his ring stolen — by a fortune teller. Hendrik ter Brugghen, whose The Supper at Emmaus (1616) will appear in the exhibition, was a leading Dutch painter of religious subjects in the Caravaggesque style. He used dramatic contrasts of light and shade inspired by Caravaggio. Other works from the permanent collection will include Artemesia Gentileschi’s Lot and his Daughters (ca. 1636-1638) and Jusepe de Ribera’s Portrait of a Musician (1638).

The Caravaggio paintings on view are on loan from the Kimbell Art Museum (Fort Worth, Texas), the Wadsworth Atheneum (Hartford, Conn.), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) and the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit).

Included in admission is an audio guide that provides deeper insights. An audio description guide is also available.


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