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Bartolomeo Manfredi (baptised 25 August
1582–12 December 1622) was an Italian painter, a leading member of
the Caravaggisti (followers of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio) of
the early 16th century.
Manfredi was born in Ostiano, near
Cremona. He may have been a pupil of Caravaggio in Rome—at his
famous libel trial in 1603 Caravaggio mentioned that a certain
Bartolomeo, accused of distributing scurrilous poems attacking
Caravaggio's detested rival Baglione, had been a servant of his.
Certainly the Bartolomeo Manfredi known to art history was a close
follower of Caravaggio's innovatory style, with its enhanced
chiaroscuro and insistence on naturalism, with a gift for story-telling
through expression and body-language.
Caravaggio in his brief career—he
rocketed to fame in 1600, was exiled from Rome in 1606, and was dead
by 1610—had a profound effect on the younger generation of artists,
particularly in Rome and Naples. And of these Caravaggisti (followers
of Caravaggio), Manfredi seems in turn to have been the most
influential in transmitting the master's legacy to the next
generation, particularly with painters from France and the
Netherlands who came to Italy. Unfortunately no documented, signed
works by Manfredi survive, and several of the forty or so works now
attributed to him were formerly believed to be by Caravaggio. The
steady disentangling of Caravaggio from Manfredi has made clear that
it was Manfredi, rather than his master, who was primarily
responsible for popularising low-life genre painting among the
second generation of Caravaggisti.
Manfredi was a successful artist,
able to keep his own servant before he was thirty years old, "a man
of distinguished appearance and fine behaviour" according to the
biographer Giulio Mancini, although seldom sociable. He built his
career around easel paintings for private clients, and never pursued
the public commissions upon which wider reputations were built, but
his works were widely collected in the 17th century and he was
considered Caravaggio's equal or even superior. His Mars
Chastising Cupid offers a tantalising hint at a lost Caravaggio:
the master promised a painting on this theme to Mancini, but another
of Caravaggio's patrons, Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte, had
taken it, and Mancini therefore commissioned Manfredi to paint
another for him, which Mancini considered Manfredi's best work.
Manfredi died in Rome in 1622.