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Abstracts
CUPPONE MICHELE
The Contarelli chapel and the dispersed Nativity of Palermo. New findings and precedents for Caravaggio’s iconography

This paper presents new considerations regarding the artistic development of Merisi by looking at the paintings in the Contarelli chapel, where it has been possible to identify in the soldier with his back turned, in the central panel of the ceiling vault fresco by Giuseppe Cesari, an iconographical precedent which was later echoed in the Saint Joseph figure of the dispersed Nativity. This identification is reinforced by a recent hypothesis that proposes that this canvas is the same work that was commissioned by Nuti in 1600. Further confirmation comes from recent observations regarding self-referential elements found within the chapel, as well as from objective technical data, leading to new doubts about the chronology of the Nativity. While respecting the sources, which give a later date for the picture, various elements suggest that it was conceived solely in Rome, from around the time of the Contarelli commission. An important element, rich in significance for the man and for the artist, is represented by the church of San Luigi dei Francesi, a place central to the life of Caravaggio, and connected to his public debut as well as to his ‘great failure’ (metaphorically, one could say his baptism and his original sin), which left a personal mark on the painter, his first Martyrdom.

The Contarelli chapel and the dispersed Nativity of Palermo. New findings and precedents for Caravaggio’s iconography
N°2/2011 luglio-dicembre Anno XIX