Caravaggio for children and adults

A Quest for kNIGHThood

Caravaggio for Children of all Ages

By Peter Serracino Inglott and Arja Nukarinen Callus

reviewed by Noel Grima

In preparation for the 400th anniversary of the yet unexplained death of Caravaggio, (18 July 1610) a high-level exhibition in Rome is presenting again the genius of the Roman baroque to the world at large.

For us Maltese, this is of rather limited interest, since our interest climaxed on the fourth centenary of the artist’s brief but eventful stay in Malta and subsequent escape, some years ago.

In between these anniversaries, the Maltese National Commission for Unesco and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth & Sports commissioned a slim but intriguing book by poet and philosopher Peter Serracino Inglott and Finnish artist Arja Nukarinen-Callus to present Caravaggio, his life and works to a wide audience, as if to children.

There is a book, M the Man who became Caravaggio, which explains Caravaggio’s masterpieces from his turbulent life: after all it is well-known that some of his masterpieces were inspired by one or other of the many events in his life and coloured the way he tackled the subject matter, many times a religious theme. Sometimes he chose, for instance, women he knew from the Roman low-life, even portraying them as Madonnas.

Ms Nukarinen Callus specialised in her native Finland in Art Pedagogy for the young.

This book takes a different starting-point since its main interest, it would seem, is to talk to the young about life, life in general, their own lives. So it does not go for this psychological interpretation of Caravaggio’s masterpieces, but it treats the artist’s life and uses his paintings as interpretation of how the artist could have looked at these significant moments in his life or rather how the young readers, following from the “example” set by Caravaggio, and referring to his paintings, could look upon their own lives.

For instance, in the very first chapter, he uses a Nativity he painted for a Palermo church to talk about his own birth.

Successive chapters deal with later stages in life, relations with one’s father and mother, adolescence, and on to old age and death.

In a rather pleasant touch, in one chapter it is a horse who speaks, rather than Caravaggio (defending his dominant position in the painting on St Paul’s conversion) while in another one, it is a donkey speaking (from the Flight to Egypt).

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