Caravaggio's Narcissus makes splash in Havana

Caravaggio's Narcissus has gone on view in Cuba for the first time, exposing the island's art lovers to the lush, naturalistic work of an old master who also was a revolutionary in his day.

Narcissus, painted from 1597 to 1599, shows the handsome youth bent over a pool, eyes locked on his own reflection.

A dozen other paintings by Caravaggio's followers are also in the exhibit at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, which runs until November 27.

Caravaggio "couldn't have a better surrounding than this," said Rosella Vodret, the head if the Polo Museale of the city of Rome, which is presenting the exhibition in Havana as part of a cultural initiative.

Vodret highlighted Caravaggio's place in the history of art as a revolutionary painter who helped usher in the Baroque.

Born Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio in 1571, he transformed painting with the use of dramatic lighting to illuminate naturalistic scenes peopled with ordinary men and women.

Although a successful painter for the Catholic church, he was a notorious street brawler who was jailed on several occasions, killed a man in a fight in 1606 and fled Rome with a price on his head.

Italy's deputy minister of culture, Ricardo Villardi, said the show was Rome's way of relating to Cuba during a time of change.

"I asked myself how as a government we could accompany the changes, these transformations, that are under way, with respect for (Cuba's) autonomy... and the answer is this exhibition," he said.

His Cuban counterpart, Fernando Rojas, said it was "very appropriate" to show in Cuba the work of "a rebel, an innovator" who reflected the common people in his work "as we Cubans can appreciate that."