Posts Tagged ‘torso murder’

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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