I am taking an interesting art history seminar focused on the great Italian painter, Caravaggio. His art has influenced many artists after him, and his approach to painting and the subject were seen as revolutionary, even rebellious at the time. His sharp darks and lights, naturalism, and compositions, set him apart from his contemporaries, all suffering from the plague of Manerism and repetition. Bellori, a famous art critic and writer of the time, recounted the dark, swarthy personality of the troubled artist, implying the affects of his character in his work. Because of the number of artists who took hold of his revolutionary ideas, there are numerous pieces of art in his style, that may be by him, or one of his imitators.
What is perhaps, to me, one of the most interesting questions in art history, as well as the career of Caravaggio, is the question of attribution. There are several paintings that have been argued to be created by Caravaggio, but there are no ways to be positive of his authorship. My professor gave us an assignment arguing for or against the attribution of certain paintings in question. In doing this assignment, I had to become very familiar with the history of the artist, as well as the other works of the artist. We could not only look at other paintings by Caravaggio as his work was always changing, so we had to use sources with a historical context. This also was not a certain method because all his pieces were not always recorded and accounted for.
Attribution is tricky business. One has to be extremely familiar with the artist and his work, as well as the history surrounding the artist. One’s logic, arguments and deductive reasoning are really important in claiming a piece was done by certain artist, because there could be little evidence. To me, arguments of attribution are always up in the air, requiring coercion and subtle charm. Even attribution is an art.