This paper is a description of an invented painting by Michelangelo Merisi, the Italian painter better known by the name of the hill town in Lombardy in which he was born, Caravaggio. The painting, Magdalene at the Tomb, is representative of the artist's later work in subject matter and style and is taken from a description of an actual painting by the artist, referred to by one of Caravaggio's biographers but believed no longer to be in existence. Painted in Malta two years before his death, the Magdalene was commissioned for the church of San Giovanni to complement another portrait, that of St. Jerome.
After a number of years of apprenticeship, Caravaggio began his career in Rome in 1599 with a commission to provide two paintings on the life of St. Matthew for the Contarelli Chapel. He had already developed a striking and influential style which uses a dramatic lighting effect known as chiaroscuro, contrasting bright illumination with areas of dense shadow. His subjects ranged from genre paintings (scenes of everyday life) to religious subjects, and he often used lower-class models for both types of work.
The artist's turbulent personal life began to interrupt his career in 1606, when he was forced to flee to city for Naples to avoid a murder charge. He arrived on the island of Malta in 1607. Welcomed at first and made a Knight of St. John, Caravaggio's combative temper led to his imprisonment in the fall of 1608 when he attacked a nobleman. The artist escaped to Syracuse in Sicily (probably with local assistance). Eventually, he ended up in Tuscany where, following another arrest (this one a mistaken imprisonment), he contracted a fever and died on a beach in 1610.
Before he was imprisoned in Malta, Caravaggio painted a number of canvases which have survived, most notably a portrait of Alof de Wigancourt, the nobleman who gave Caravaggio his much-coveted Maltese knighthood. Also during this period, the artist pai...