The Milwaukee Art Museum’s painting by Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664), Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, has been popular with museum goers since it entered the collection in 1958. This is probably not surprising, since Zurbarán’s work is infused with a humanity that connects instantly with viewers.
Alas, the Milwaukee Art Museum does not own a Caravaggio painting.
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610) was a revolutionary painter who combined theatrical compositions and lighting with realistic depictions of humans to make some of the most dramatic and memorable paintings from the early Baroque period.
Unfortunately, he died young and his paintings are hard to come by. Some of my favorites are The Calling of Saint Matthew in Rome and Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness in Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum.
But no need to despair! Many artists who traveled to Italy in the 17th century—and lots who didn’t—were inspired to use the style of the great artist Caravaggio. The Milwaukee Art Museum has great paintings by some of these northern European artists, which hang in Gallery #5 with Northern Baroque paintings. Two of them—Christ before the High Priest by Mathias Stom and Mars, God of War by Gerrit von Honthorst—are by well-known artists of the phenomenon.
I’ve found myself recently admiring one in particular, by the least-known artist in the gallery: Gluttony by Jacques de l’Ange.