Boy Bitten by a Lizard (1596) Caravaggio Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Caravaggio produced several multiple versions of the same theme on several occasions within his career, with one of those being Boy Bitten by a Lizard. The specific painting shown here was completed in 1596 and it part of the collection of the National Gallery in London, UK.

The composition itself is fairly simple, and reminds us of some of his work at the very start of his career. It is a single portrait figure alongside some touches of still life art in the form of the fruit and glass bowl which are positioned just in front of the boy. Caravaggio liked to keep things simple in the earlier parts of his career but by 1596 was certainly capable of much more ambitious projects. His use of light was already in operation here, with this dramatic and abrupt approach becoming the signature element to his own style, and something that would also inspire many artists who followed on in the next few years. In this example the light comes in from the left and brightens the right hand side of the boy, whilst also bringing in the reflection of the glass bowl by his side.

From the fruit bowl the lizard appears, biting a shocked boy. This would be the typical model choice of Caravaggio throughout his career, although most of his other works contained elements of myth or religion behind them. They may have been some direction from the artist towards the model in how best to create this scene, and to hold such an expression for so long would not have been easy to achieve. Perhaps the artist created some study drawings from which to work at a later date, but none have unfortunately been uncovered.

The National Gallery in London, where you will find this painting, owns one of the finest collections of British and European art anywhere in the world. They are particularly impressive in their array of paintings from the career of Romanticist artist, JMW Turner. Alongside that, you will come across some of the true masters of the Renaissance and Baroque eras, as well as a constant rotation of key exhibitions which breathes new life into the venue for around three months at a time. There respected position with the top level of art museums also allows them to loan in other items from time to time, without any concern around their understanding of how to protect famous artworks from the past. They are also well-backed financially, which allows sufficient insurance which is now necessary for some of the more notable paintings and sculptures from the great names of centuries ago.