Private view

A taste of early Enlightenment
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The Independent Online

The Genius of Rome 1592-1623, Royal Academy, London WC1 Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is the undoubted star of the Royal Academy's dramatic exploration of the origins of the Baroque in Rome. Although only about a tenth of the exhibition's 140 paintings are actually attributed to him, they represent the full breadth of his artistic achievement.

The Genius of Rome 1592-1623, Royal Academy, London WC1 Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is the undoubted star of the Royal Academy's dramatic exploration of the origins of the Baroque in Rome. Although only about a tenth of the exhibition's 140 paintings are actually attributed to him, they represent the full breadth of his artistic achievement.

After arriving in Rome, Caravaggio specialised in the painting of fruit and flowers. The culmination of this worked-at talent can be seen in his "Boy with a Basket of Fruit": the fruit acts as a ripe confirmation of the boy's own exquisite beauty.

"The Musicians" exemplifies Caravaggio's prodigious control of a more populated canvas. The four young men are caught in a creative reverie; only the two central figures seems to have noticed the presence of the painter.

Caravaggio killed a man in 1596 and spent his last years on the run. This might, in part, explain the intense charge I felt the moment I saw his late portrait of St John the Baptist. The shadowed image still carries a violent immediacy 400 years after it was painted.

The exhibition runs until 16 Apr at the Royal Academy, Piccadilly, London WC1 (020-7300 8000)

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