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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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While the topics of Caravaggio's work vary, John the Baptist, his favourite saint was chosen for at least seven different paintings

His only known assistant Cecco stood model for many paintings, and it is thought by some that he and Caravaggio may have been lovers.

However, there is no known evidence of this. More works include John the Baptist (Youth with a Ram), St John the Baptist at the Fountain, and Reclining John the Baptist.

By 1610, feeling he had no other options, he began travelling to Rome in hopes of receiving a pardon from the Pope. While on the road near Tuscany, he came down with a fever and passed away not long after.

Legal documents from the period describe the picture of an unstable young man. He's known to have killed a man in 1606, a pimp named Ranuccio Tomassoni.

Caravaggio immediately took off for safer parts of Italy, such as Naples and Sicily. He continued working while on the run, creating Beheading of St. John the Baptist for a cathedral in Valletta in Malta. His volatile temperament meant that trouble was never far behind him.

Although he had been initiated into the Order of Malta as a Knight of Justice (the honour being withdrawn when his murderous past was discovered), he attacked a senior knight in 1608, and was once more on the run.

He survived a bloody attack that appeared to be a direct attempt on his life, and was severely shaken by it. Changes in his brushwork and themes can be seen in his work from this period.