David with the Head of Goliath

That’s the triumph of being right. – Saadullah Bashir

David with the Head of Goliath, 1609-1610, Galleria Borghese, Rome.

Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio, 1571–1610, Italian painter. His surname, Caravaggio, came from his birthplace. After an apprenticeship in Milan, he arrived (1592) in Rome where he eventually became a pensioner of Cardinal Francesco del Monte for whom he produced several paintings, among them the Concert of Youths. Most of Caravaggio’s genre pieces, such as the Fortune Teller, are products of his early Roman years, but after completing the Calling of St. Matthew and the Martyrdom of St. Matthew (c.1598–99), he devoted himself almost exclusively to religious compositions and portraiture. His violent temper and erratic disposition involved him in several brawls, and in 1606 he fled Rome after killing a young man in a duel. He spent the last four years of his life in Naples, Malta, Syracuse, and Messina. A revolutionary in art, Caravaggio was accused of imitating nature at the expense of ideal beauty. In religious scenes his use of models from the lower walks of life was considered irreverent. He generally worked directly on the canvas, a violation of current artistic procedure. His strong chiaroscuro technique of partially illuminating figures against a dark background was immediately adopted by his contemporaries, and although he had no pupils, the influence of his art was enormous.

The Columbia Encyclopedia. © 2001 Columbia University

L’art pour l’art.— The fight against purpose in art is always a fight against the moralizing tendency in art, against its subordination to morality. L’art pour l’art means: “The devil take morality!”— But even this hostility still betrays the overpowering force of the prejudice. When the purpose of moral preaching and of improving man has been excluded from art, it still does not follow by any means that art is altogether purposeless, aimless, senseless—in short, l’art pour l’art, a worm chewing its own tail. “Rather no purpose at all than a moral purpose!”—that is the talk of mere passion. A psychologist, on the other hand, asks: what does all art do? does it not praise? glorify? choose? prefer? With all this it strengthens or weakens certain valuations … Is this merely a “moreover”? an accident? something in which the artist’s instinct had no share? Or is it not the very presupposition of the artist’s ability…? Does his basic instinct aim at art, or rather at the sense of art, at life? at a desirability of life?— Art is the great stimulant to life: how could one understand it as purposeless, as aimless, as l’art pour l’art?— One question remains: art also makes apparent much that is ugly, hard, and questionable in life,—does it not thereby spoil life for us?— And indeed there have been philosophers who attributed this sense to it: “liberation from the will” was what Schopenhauer taught as the overall end of art; and with admiration he found the great utility of tragedy in its “evoking resignation.”— But this—as I have already suggested—is the pessimist’s perspective and “evil eye”: one must appeal to the artists themselves. What does the tragic artist communicate of himself? Is it not precisely the state without fear in the face of the fearful and questionable that he is showing?— This state itself is a great desideratum [Wünschbarkeit]; whoever knows it, honors it with the greatest honors. He communicates it, he must communicate it, provided he is an artist, a genius of communication. Courage and freedom of feeling before a powerful enemy, before a sublime calamity, before a problem that arouses dread—this triumphant state is what the tragic artist chooses, what he glorifies. Before tragedy, what is warlike in our soul celebrates its Saturnalia; whoever is used to suffering, whoever seeks out suffering, the heroic man praises his own being through tragedy—to him alone the tragedian presents this drink of sweetest cruelty. — Sec. 24, Skirmishes of an Untimely Man; Twilight of the Idols – Nietzsche

Beauty will never be clear about itself. – Goethe


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