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Caravaggio had a profound effect on the younger generation of artists, especially in Rome and Naples, during his short career - he became famous in 1600, was banished from Rome in 1606, and died in 1610. And of these Caravaggisti (followers of Caravaggio), Manfredi in turn seems to have been the most influential in passing on the master's legacy to the next generation, especially painters from France and the Netherlands who came to Italy. No documented signed works by Manfredi survive, and several of the forty or so works now attributed to him were once thought to be works by Caravaggio. The steady disentanglement of Caravaggio and Manfredi has made it clear that it was Manfredi, and not his master, who was primarily responsible for popularizing low genre painting among the second generation of Caravaggisti.

Bartolomeo Manfredi (* 1582 in Ostiano or Mantua; † 12 December 1622 in Rome) was an Italian painter of Mannerism and early Baroque. Manfredi was trained in Rome, where he was from 1600, and was known there as the first Caravaggio imitator. He was probably his student in Caravaggio's studio and, after Caravaggio was forced to leave Rome in 1606, succeeded him. He used Caravaggio's light and shadow technique (chiaroscuro) for genre scenes of military, bandit and tavern life, but developed his style further. He was very popular in Rome and the rest of Italy and enjoyed the support of important patrons and collectors outside Italy, especially to Holland. He also influenced the Utrecht Caravaggists, but painted in a different style. At his famous libel trial in 1603, Caravaggio mentioned that a certain Bartolomeo, accused of spreading foul-mouthed poems attacking Caravaggio's hated rival Baglione, had been a servant of his. Certainly, the Bartolomeo Manfredi, well known in art history, was a close follower of Caravaggio's innovative style, with its chiaroscuro and insistence on naturalism, with a gift for telling stories through expression and body language.

*1582-1622

Bartolomeo Manfredi

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Oil on canvas, 122,2 x 154,4 cm
 Detroit Institute of Arts, USA 
 Founders Society Purchase
 Acquisitions Fund © Bridgeman Images

62 | The Fortune Teller (Die Wahrsagerin), c. 1616-1617

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