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Johnston-Keane, Kathy (2010) CARAVAGGIO'S DRAMA: ART, THEATER, AND RELIGION DURING ITALY'S "SPANISH AGE". Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Scholars often describe Caravaggio's paintings as inspired by scenes from quotidian life. A few see his work as influenced by popular dramas such as the commedia dell'arte. While one might think these are conflicting explanations, close examination shows that a wide variety of popular dramatic forms was as much part of daily life as daily life was part of popular drama. Caravaggio's "theatricality" is the careful depiction of quotidian life, expressed through the familiar language of popular dramatic forms, a sort of "visual vernacular" known to all classes. Caravaggio appropriated specific elements both found in a wide variety of popular theatrical media and recommended in treatises on oration, preaching, Jesuit spiritual exercises, and memory models, because they were proven to engage the emotions and make imagery memorable. Caravaggio went against painterly tradition and filled his shallow pictorial spaces with sharp side-lighting, deep shadow, and personages based on everyday life to make his paintings distinctive and to bolster his reputation among the general public, who was fascinated with dramatic entertainment. In Spanish Lombardy, Caravaggio saw public spectacles hosted by Spanish officials; the Entierro, a torch-lit procession with live actors and painted statuary; stage-like Sacro Monte chapels filled with polychrome statuary; and action packed and often violent illustrations from epics such as the vastly popular Orlando Furioso, which was frequently represented in street theater. In Rome, he frequently saw secular and religious street dramas and associated with elites, such as Cardinal del Monte and the Colonna family, who used various forms of popular theater to enhance their reputations. In southern Italy, Caravaggio looked to Italian/Spanish hybrids of local drama, travelling commedia dell'arte troupes, local and Iberian drama and literature, and the Neapolitan presepe for inspiration. In the south, he transformed his polished Roman painting style into one with rough, brushwork, dark palette, somber mood, and deep psychological complexity, reflecting the current writings of the Spanish mystics, local dramatists and memory scholars. Thus, the artist's work serves as a lens that focuses, with illuminating intensity, on the wide range of dramatic forms found in Spanish Italy that were common sights in daily life.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Johnston-Keane, Kathykathyjoh@pitt.eduKATHYJOH
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairSutherland Harris, Annash@pitt.eduASH
Committee MemberFavorini, Attiliobucfav@pitt.eduBUCFAV
Committee MemberWilkins, David Gdgw2@pitt.eduDGW2
Committee MemberSavoia, Francescasavoia@pitt.eduSAVOIA
Committee MemberWeis, H Anneweis@pitt.eduWEIS
Committee MemberChristian, Kathleen Wrenkwc@pitt.eduKWC
Date: 18 June 2010
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 19 March 2010
Approval Date: 18 June 2010
Submission Date: 21 April 2010
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History of Art and Architecture
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Baroque; Catholic; cinquecento; Colonna; commedia dell'arte; Costanza Colonna; Counter-Reformation; early modern; emotion; empathy; eta spagnola; Iberia; Iberian; Italian; Italy; lighting; memory; Michelangelo Merisi; Milan; Naples; painting; paso; polychrome; popular drama; presepe; presepio; Renaissance; Rome; Sacro Monte; sculpture; seicento; space; spagnola; Spain; Spanish; theatre; Varallo; vernacular; violence; visual; art; Carlo Borromeo; comedia de santos; drama; street theater; theater; procession
Other ID:, etd-04212010-175850
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:40
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:41


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