A focus on Caravaggio’s last work, The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula, telling the story of an empowered female saint
In early May 1610, Caravaggio finished painting The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula. Two months later, he was dead, having been disfigured in a brawl and become ill while trying to return from exile to Rome.
Caravaggio is one of the most famous and instantly recognisable artists in the world. His paintings open a vivid and startlingly modern window onto the seventeenth century, while his own turbulent life story, characterised by violence, murder, exile, and untimely death, remains a source of fascination. Few paintings are better placed to tell this story than The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula. Here, violence takes place at uncomfortably close quarters as Caravaggio, whose own self portrait is included, looks on helplessly.
Published by National Gallery Global/Distributed by Yale University Press
National Gallery, London (April 18–July 14, 2024). It is not a travelling exhibition; however, the National Gallery is borrowing the painting from the Gallerie d’Italia in Naples.
Essay[one continuous text of c. 7,500 words, divided into sections as above in bold]
Timeline [charting the development of this painting and other key works alongside Caravaggio’s life:he travelled widely and lived in exile in various different places, so the reader can see where he was when he painted each work.]
Francesca Whitlum-Cooper is acting curator of Later Italian, Spanish and 17th-century French Paintings at the National Gallery, London.
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