Archive for the ‘Caravaggio’ Category

Not only is Caravaggio the greatest painter, EVER. Not only is his work the subject of my first fiction novel (hopefully you’ll read it someday). But he was also born in the same city as Stefania…


So in honor of Stef, Caravaggio and a hackneyed attempt to pimp my work, here is a chapter form my book. In this chapter, the characters happen to be celebrating the work of their hero, Caravaggio… So there ya go.  Enjoy!

Chapter 03 – The Gospel of Don Vittorio Storaro

Under the cover of darkness, beneath the tall oaks of Griffith Park, a group of Cinematography Fellows at the American Film Institute dropped the sacrilegious bomb and anointed famed cinematographer Vittorio Storaro as their lord and savior. They saw him as a jealous prophet, one who didn’t tolerate any second-guessing of his belief system. So Don Vittorio gave them tangible proof that he was not to be fucked with, five masterpieces of cinematography…

“The Conformist” (1970),

“Last Tango In Paris” (1972),

“Apocalypse Now” (1979),

“Reds” (1981)

“The Last Emperor” (1987)

Simply put, if you’re ever blessed enough to finally see Vittorio’s light, you’ll get the spirit and jump around the Los Feliz campus like Aunt Esther in an Alabama Baptist church. It’s that moment where you evolve from being a mere photographer and you become a painter of light.

Born technician.

Born again artist.

For us, colors are not just various wavelengths of the visible light spectrum. Colors are mystical ingredients that when mixed right become a potion of seduction and enslavement. Storaro is the key. He’s Merlin, Moses and the Rosetta Stone all wrapped up into one.

The Bourgeois Pig coffee bar is the Church of the Cult of Light. It’s a cathedral full of Goodwill couches, pool tables and pretentiousness. We Fellows make camp in the Moroccan room, which looks like something out of 1001 Arabian Nights, with its long curtains, hung to make you feel like you’re chillin’ in a tent, pitched deep in the North African Desert. It’s our chapel and it’s decorated with the portraits of the artists we worship, the saints of our craft.

I know,  I know… There’s some fucked up idolatry goin’ on up in here.  Right? The Hollywood branch of the Church of Scientology is across the street. They won’t bring their children over here anymore. How messed up is that?

I share a table with Pan and this Directing Fellow from New York named Skylar, who came out of the documentary scene. The two entertain me as I listen to them babble on about bullshit.

“…Really? Your favorite sport is Little League Baseball?” asks an astonished Skylar.

“No. Just the Little League World Series,” says Pan.


“I like seeing ‘em cry.”

“What?” asks Skylar in disbelief.

“A couple of years ago, with the entire world watching, a ten year old Japanese pitcher got lit up by a walk-off home run in extra innings and lost the game. As the American player rounds the bases with complete unadulterated glee, the pitcher just crumples to the mound, man. He just collapses to the ground in a wet quivering mass of inconsolable grief,” says Pan blissfully.

“And you find this entertaining?” Sky asks.

“I laughed my fool head off. I watch it on YouTube at least once a week, the entire stadium on its feet cheering this kid’s humiliation…”

Pan fades off in reverie, no doubt re-living the incident within his bald head, as he stares down into his blue cream soda.

“You’re a sick fuck, you know that, Pan?” says Skylar. “They weren’t cheering the loss. They were cheering the walk-off home run.”

“Not if you squint while you’re lookin’ at it.”

We’re interrupted by a few of the Fellows as they suddenly drag a dinner table into the center of the room, dressed with a plate, flatware and a fat bottle of Chianti. They exit and then a shady looking character appears at the entrance of the room. Wearing knee length black boots and a cape, he swaggers into the room, tugging at his fake beard with his left hand, fondling the handle of the sword with the other. The guy looks like he’s perpetually piss

ed. As a matter of fact, he looks very much like one of the portraits hanging on the wall.

“CARAVAGGIO!” the room cheers.

“Shut up!” he bellows back at us. ”And you!” he screams at a Fellow playing a waiter. “Bring me a plate of Artichoke Hearts!”

“Si, Signore. Fried or sautéed?”

Today is September 29th, the day Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was born. It’s one of the most important days in the Fellow’s calendar year. It’s sacred.

If Vittorio is our savior then Caravaggio would be our father in heaven. The alpha and the omega. He is the goddamn man. We adore this Baroque asshole of a painter who created a style of painting known as Chiaroscuro, a dramatic technique where the artist seems to carve his subjects out of blackness with a single light source. A technique we Fellows are desperate to master, student loan debt be damned; and we observe the day of his birthday by recreating one of the several incidents on his long arrest sheet, known as…

The Artichoke Incident.

The waiter re-appears with a plate full of food.

“Your artichokes, Signore.”

“Wait.” Caravaggio says before the waiter can leave. “Which are fried and which are sautéed?”

“I don’t know. Why don’t you smell them with your big nose and find out?” says the waiter.

“WHAT?” says Caravaggio as he leaps out of his chair and smashes the plate of hot Artichokes into the waiter’s mug.

The waiter collapses to the ground, claws at his face and shrieks in pain as if he was punched in the face with a bag of indignant bees.

Horrible acting job. …Just fucking horrible.

As Caravaggio regally settles back into his seat, the Fellows begin to sing his praise.

“For he’s a jolly good fellow! For he’s a jolly good fellow! For he’s jolly good felloooow! Which nobody can deny!”

A couple fools in cheap Roman soldier costumes march into the room and promptly arrest Caravaggio causing the Fellows to whistle and boo in protest.

Victor stands on a chair and begs for quiet.

As he begins to speak, plastic cups filled to the brim with the cheap Chianti are passed around the room.

“It was Vittorio Storaro who introduced us to this artistic god, this crazed Italian painter who was cinematic centuries before cinema existed. If you like films like The Godfather or Blade Runner you have to like Caravaggio because it all began with him. He is Noir. To say he was ahead of his time is an understatement. He bitch slapped time and left it bleeding in a dark alley of Rome.”

The Fellows cheer in revelry!

“Tonight, we celebrate our god, Caravaggio! Salute!”

“SALUTE!” responds the entire room, raising their plastic cups into the air.

We drink.

We sit.

We chat like none of this silly bullshit every happened.

My line of sight clears as everybody settles back into the comfy couches. I spot Dani Gruber. I wonder when her sexy little ass arrived on the scene?

Sky noticed her, too. “Stop your grinning and drop your linen, the dreamiest dame on campus has arrived,” Skylar says as he nods towards Dani, her long black hair cascading towards her perfect tits.

“Eh, if you like that type,” Pan says as he takes a sip of his Blue Cream soda.

“You’re such a beach bum, man,” says Skylar. He turns towards me to explain. “Pan can’t dig on girls east of the Pacific Coast Highway.”

“Goddamn right. Blonde hair and beach volleyball abs.”

“A nice Aryan girl to take home to mother,” mocks Skylar. “You have the same taste in women as Joseph Goebbels. How’s that make you feel? In fact, with a name like Gruber she’s probably perfect for you.”

“Screw you, Sky. Besides, that girl is all Italian.”

This grabs my attention. “How do you know?” I ask.

“We made small talk at the bar,” says Pan.

“And how did that work out for you?” I ask.

“Shot me down like a Kennedy.”

“Jason. Don’t you parli the eye-talian?” asks Skylar.

“A little…”


Happy Birthday, Merisi… You insane son of a bitch.


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Today I’m going to give Stefania a rest and post an excerpt from my novel, “Empire Of Light” .  It combines two of my favorite things, Caravaggio and the city of Cleveland. Hope ya like it. Hope ya can read whole shebang someday.  Ciao. Buona notte, Vespina.


Chapter 14 – Cleveland is a Chiaroscuro City

Painting 1 :: The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew (1607) – Cleveland Museum Of Art

Chiaroscuro is a painting technique where the contrast between light and dark is jacked-up to spectacular levels. It comes from two Italian words, chiaro, which means light, and oscuro, which means dark.

Many artists had dabbled in the technique before Caravaggio, but he was the first to manhandle it by working in a completely blacked-out studio. His scenes are carved out of the darkness with a single light source, a 3D effect that shoots the models out towards the viewers while throwing the background into hostile blacks, an innovation used centuries later by cinematographers to create Film Noir. With Caravaggio, the subject matter might have been 1st Century Judas Iscariot, but the lighting is a straight up 1940’s Warner Brothers.

You can’t live in an unlucky little town like Cleveland and not figure out how to embrace darkness. Even when it comes to our sports, instead of celebrating our few victories we instead wallow in their most crushing defeats, cryptically listing them on the backs of t-shirts like concert dates…

Red Right 88 – January 4th 1981

The Drive – January 11th 1987

The Fumble – January 17th 1988

The Shot – May 7th 1989

The Move – 1995/1996

The Mesa Meltdown – October 26 1997

Even when Cleveland imports a ringer, a bona-fide winner from another city, it some how manages to fuck up beyond all recognition.

Submitted for your approval, golden boy, Elliot Ness.

After Ness put Al Capone behind bars in Chicago he was hired to clean up the City of Cleveland, which at the time was known as the criminal safe house of the country. He arrived in town like a white knight just in time to match wits against the serial killer, the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run.

Ness promptly got his ass handed to him on a plate.

The poor guy was so stymied by the killer that in the end he decided to just set part of the city on fire, hoping lady luck would do him a solid and burn the son-of-a-bitch to death. However the Butcher survived and taunted Ness for years with post cards.

The great Elliot Ness caught Capone, but he never caught ME.

And Cleveland lived happily ever after.

With a history so dark, it’s no wonder that most people are shocked when they discover that a town like Cleveland has a world-class museum. The Cleveland Museum of Art, in contrast to the bleakness that haunts the city, glows like the face of the Christ child in a Caravaggio painting. Cleveland is a living breathing chiaroscuro.


I could’ve performed a Google search to make sure there was, indeed, a Caravaggio in Cleveland, but I wanted the surprise. I want to experience the discovery of it all, as if I discover it hiding behind an old wardrobe in my parent’s attic.

I walk the grounds of the museum and pass by an original casting of Rodin’s The Thinker, perched on the stairs leading up to the Museum’s entrance. His legs are blown off and the base is horribly disfigured, plumed out by a bomb set by a member of the Weather Underground revolutionary group in the 70’s. The town decided not to restore it, instead opting for a statement on the destruction of meaningful objects. The statue now sits disfigured; a symbol of how public art is vulnerable to “jerks with agendas”.

I burst through the CMA doors, drop a few bucks into the donation bin, grab a map and head towards the gallery called, Baroque. I stand a good 12 yards from the entrance, but even from here I can recognize the word “Caravaggio” in bold letters on the gallery sign.


Could this really be a gallery full of nothing but Caravaggio paintings? I go giddy as I jog towards the room, but as more of the sign comes into focus my hopes are dashed on the rocks.

The Followers Of Caravaggio

“Shoot,” I whisper to myself.

This is like showing up to a concert and instead of getting U2 you get the tribute garage band from around the block. They were smart to put the word Followers in the title and not students. The man was too goddamn cantankerous to have students. The only way you could’ve leaned from Caravaggio was to bite his style and risk him giving you a beat down.

But you gotta feel for his imitators. How could you possibly go back to your old ways after seeing his new style? I imagine a Caravaggio victim lying in the street, nose beaten to a pulp, screaming at the top of his lungs as Caravaggio swaggers away.

“It was fucking worth it, asshole!”

I cautiously enter the gallery, still hoping there’s a Caravaggio hanging in the room somewhere. Out of the corner of my eye I spot the gallery jewel piece. It’s a crucifixion scene, massive and dark. If there’s a Caravaggio here, that’s it.

However, I try to ignore it. I want to save it as my ace in the hole. I instead scan the other paintings, and I sincerely try to give the paintings their due, but they’re too much of a dick tease. screw it. I make my bombing run on the jewel piece, reigning over the room like a king sitting at the head of his Christmas table.

The Crucifixion of St. Andrew – Michelangelo Merisi Da Caravaggio.

The painting is of St. Andrew who was to be crucified for trying to convert the Greeks to Christianity. He survived for two days, preaching the gospel to upwards of 20,000 people the entire time. The crowd was so moved that they demanded his release, but Andrew wanted to die on the cross like his savior. When his executioners tried to release him they were instantly paralyzed by God, allowing Andrew to die on the cross as he asked.

A miracle…

© 2010 Gregory Earls

The Cleveland Museum Of Art Blog

And that’s, as I like to say, the gist of it.

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