Danielle Carrabino, Associate Research Curator in European Art at the Harvard Art Museums, was the recipient of a 2014 IAS Research & Publication Grant, which she used to purchase image rights for her book, Caravaggio and the Caravaggesque in Sicily, currently in progress. Carrabino tells us more about her work on the great Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio:
My book will offer the first comprehensive examination in English of Caravaggio’s little documented sojourn in Sicily between 1608 and 1609. It takes an in-depth look at the paintings the artist created during a tumultuous and obscure moment in his life through an examination of his network of patrons and the distinct religious, political, and environmental conditions in which he was painting. The four public altarpieces Caravaggio created in Sicily remain a testament to his time on the island, but also account for the legacy of followers he left in his wake. The existence of other paintings created while in Sicily can be traced through documents and textual references, as well as copies by local artists. Through study of an already well-known artist, readers will also learn about Sicily as an important center of artistic production during the seventeenth century.
Arriving in Sicily as a wanted murderer and an escaped prisoner, Caravaggio remarkably enjoyed uninterrupted patronage on the island through his network of Roman patrons. The four public altarpieces painted while in Sicily, the least studied of his oeuvre, were created to decorate high altars in churches in Syracuse, Messina, and Palermo. Rather than isolating the Sicilian paintings from his previous works, these paintings are explored as a continuation of Caravaggio’s earlier career. With the exception of the unfortunate theft of the Palermo Nativity in 1969, these large-scale altarpieces still remain in Sicily. Their remote location and large size have prevented them from being examined more carefully by scholars outside of Sicily. Another major obstacle has been three major earthquakes in Sicily in 1693, 1783, and 1908, which destroyed other paintings by Caravaggio as well as precious archival materials to document the artist’s presence on the island.
My book is aimed at both a scholarly and general audience, providing a useful source for students who are presently unable to study this moment in Caravaggio’s life due to the lack of any book on the subject in English. In addition to filling a gap in the vast literature concerning Caravaggio, the book will also be fundamental to introduce the study of Early Modern Sicily to an English-speaking audience. Sicily has too long been excluded from the literature concerning European painting, and this book will be one of the first to acknowledge its unique position in the history of seventeenth-century art. Although the four extant paintings Caravaggio created in Sicily have been published in exhibition catalogs and monographs, the works by his Sicilian followers remain largely unknown.
The opportunity to compete for research grants is just one of many benefits available to members of the Italian Art Society. Join us today! The 2015 competition for the IAS Research & Publication Grant, as well as a new IAS Dissertation Research Grant, is now open to all IAS members. Applications are due 10 January 2016.
Carrabino in her hometown, Florence, at the San Lorenzo market
Burial of Saint Lucy, 1608, oil on canvas, Santa Lucia alla Badia, Siracusa
Raising of Lazarus, 1609, oil on canvas, Museo Regionale Interdisciplinare di Messina, Messina
Adoration of the Shepherds, 1609, oil on canvas, Museo Regionale Interdisciplinare di Messina, Messina
Nativity with Saints Lawrence and Francis, 1609, oil on canvas, formerly in the Oratory of San Lorenzo, Palermo (stolen: 1969)