Starting next week, Caravaggio’s painting the “Adoration of the Shepherds” is going to be restored in public in Rome’s Chamber of Deputies, the lower chamber of the Italian parliament (basically the Italian version of the House of Representatives).
Small groups of tourists and art students will be allowed to watch the restorers at work. The goal is to inspire a greater sense of connection and involvement with Italy’s rich artistic heritage.
The painting doesn’t seem to be in need a huge amount of work. The projected end of the restoration is February of next year, in time for the work to go on display in the Quirinale Palace on the 400th anniversary of Carvaggio’s death.
Caravaggio, whose real name was Michelangelo Merisi, was on the run from the law when he painted the “Adoration of the Shepherds”. He had a notoriously bad temper, which got him in many a brawl. He basically never lived in a city without getting chased out of it after he whupped the wrong guy. In 1606 he killed a man over a tennis match and had to flee Rome with a price on his head.
Over the next 3 years, he went from Naples to Malta (where he got into a brawl and ran) to Sicily (whence he fled because his enemies were trying to kill him) to Naples again (where 4 knights in armor attacked him and wounded him) to Porto Ercole, where he died, apparently from a fever, on his way way back to Rome to ask the Pope for a pardon.
That was in 1610, just 1 year after painting the “Adoration of the Shepherds” during his time in Messina, Sicily.
His chiaroscuro style — dark and light elements contrasting strongly with little or no mid-range — and embrace of naturalism influenced great artists who came after him like Rubens and Rembrandt.