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Original or replica? Works by the legendary Caravaggio at Nationalmuseum this spring

Pressmeddelande   •   Dec 17, 2009 11:33 CET

Nationalmuseum is one of many venues around the world commemorating the 400th anniversary of Caravaggio’s death this spring. The 17th-century painter is one of the great names in art history. His acute realism and distinctive chiaroscuro (light and shade) technique proved hugely influential for 17th-century painting. The exhibit comprises two paintings of St. Francis and is being presented at Nationalmuseum by the Embassy of Italy and the Italian Cultural Institute in Stockholm.

Two paintings in depth
Nationalmuseum has never hosted a Caravaggio exhibition before. This exhibit is an in-depth look at two paintings featuring the same motif, on loan from two churches in the Rome area. The Italian government is giving two Scandinavian art museums the opportunity to present the works and the scholarly debate surrounding them.

Original or replica?
The debate focuses on Caravaggio’s techniques and working methods, and the relationship between original and replica. Previously, the painting belonging to the church of Santa Maria della Concezione, Rome, was thought to be the original. However, an extensive technical examination of both paintings recently led scholars to conclude that this work is a replica, while the painting from Carpineto Romano is an original. Now, Stockholm’s art lovers have the chance to learn about the investigations and study the works close up.

Legendary artist with a Facebook fan club
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio continues to fascinate and inspire art lovers today. There are several member pages on Facebook bringing together Caravaggio fans from around the world. He is sometimes seen as a self-destructive genius. As a young artist in Rome, he was celebrated and patronized by the Church. Reputedly he was often involved in disturbances and was even accused of murder. After fleeing into exile, Caravaggio died at the age of just 37 in mysterious circumstances.

Inspiring realism and chiaroscuro
Nationalmuseum does not own any Caravaggio works and has a relatively small collection of Italian painting. The museum’s main link to Caravaggio is through its fine collection of 17th-century Dutch painting. Caravaggio’s realism and chiaroscuro lived on for decades in the Netherlands. The two Caravaggio works on loan will be displayed in Kupolsalen, adjacent to the Dutch collection. They will be conveniently situated for comparison with the painting from Nationalmuseum’s collection that relates most clearly to Caravaggio’s art, St. Jerome at Prayer by George de la Tour, a French artist.

Three 17th-century masters under one roof this spring
The Caravaggio project marks the opening of Nationalmuseum’s spring program, which focuses on 17th-century painting. A month after the Caravaggio exhibit begins, Nationalmuseum will open a major exhibition of works by Rubens and Van Dyck, the Flemish Baroque artists. For a short time, the Swedish public will have an opportunity to study three of the 17th century’s most significant artists. However, the two projects are very different in character. The Flemish exhibition provides a broad survey of an era, whereas the Caravaggio exhibit is an in-depth study of two paintings featuring the same motif.

Leading scholars to visit Stockholm
An all-day symposium on 21 January will bring together leading scholars of Caravaggio and his time. Nationalmuseum will host the event in partnership with the Italian Cultural Institute.

The exhibition runs from 21 January to 14 March 2010.

Project manager: Per Hedström, curator,,
+46 8 5195 4356

Media images:

Further information:
Anna Jansson, press officer,, +46 8 5195 4391

Italian Cultural Institute:
Paolo Grossi, cultural attaché, Embassy of Italy,,
+46 8 5458 5760

Nationalmuseum is very grateful to the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Embassy of Italy, the Italian Cultural Institute in Stockholm and Costa Cruises for making this project possible.

Photo: Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, St. Francis. © Ministry of the Interior, Department of Immigration and Civil Rights, Central Direction for the Administration of  "Fondo Edifici di Culto" (detail)

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