How many times have I already talked here about the art historian Roberto Longhi (Alba 1890 – Florence 1970)? This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of his death. In this exhibition, called  Il Tempo di Caravaggio – Masterpieces from Roberto Longhi’s collection at the Capitoline Museums, fifty masterpieces are exhibited from Longhi’s Florentine home, a villa named Il Tasso.

The Time of Caravaggio Masterpieces from Roberto Longhi’s Collection
The Time of Caravaggio Masterpieces from Roberto Longhi’s Collection

These paintings were part of his private collection, which gave Longhi the chance to be among the first to study Caravaggio. This passion, almost an obsession, stayed with him his entire life. Consider that he graduated in his twenties from the University of Turin with Pietro Toesca, another great art historian, one of whose students was Federico Zeri. Longhi’s dissertation was on none other than Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, who — though now it’s hard to imagine — was a little-known painter at that time. The exhibition starts off with a bang. After an entrance introducing us to Roberto Longhi, we are immediately taken into something of a private viewing room where on the wall is the depiction of the nervous recoiling of the Boy Bitten by a Lizard, one of Caravaggio’s masterpieces from his Roman period.

Boy Bitten by a Lizard one of Caravaggio's masterpieces
Boy Bitten by a Lizard Caravaggio

I was amazed by the feeling of pain conveyed by the young man’s face, his grimace, and his tensed hand. It is followed by Longhi’s in-depth study of this genuine icon of art. His study includes notes in the form of small drawings and sketches. We have to say that not only did he have the gift of writing, but he was likewise talented at drawing, considering how he portrayed the figure of the boy with a charcoal technique, signing and dating it. In other rooms, you’ll find a succession of painted masterpieces by artists from the 17th century, Caravaggio’s contemporaries, often influenced by the new chiaroscuro trend. There are painters little known to the broader public such as Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli, known as Morazzone (Morazzone, July 29, 1573 – Piacenza, 1626). Some are known only to connoisseurs, such as the Master of Emmaus di Pau, who was active in Naples, the Flemish artist Dirk Van Buberen, and the Piedmontese artist Giovanni Antonio Molineri, active in Rome.

The Time of Caravaggio Masterpieces from Roberto Longhi’s Collection
Giovanni Antonio Molineri Madonna and Child and St. Anne

Of course, we can also see the beautiful paintings of some artists of great renown the likes of the Roman artist Angelo Caroselli.

Allegory of Youth and Old Age by Angelo Caroselli
Angelo Caroselli Allegory of Youth and Old Age

And there is the Venetian artist Carlo Saraceni, also known as Carlo Saracino (1585–1625), seen here with some of his splendid works.

The Time of Caravaggio Masterpieces from Roberto Longhi’s Collection Carlo Saraceni
Moses is Saved from the Water by Pharaoh’s Daughters and Judith and the Head of Holofernes by Carlo Saraceni

Next we are some of the crème-de-la-creme artists here, such as the Genoese artist Bernardo Strozzi, here with a beautiful portrait.

Bernardo Strozzi at The time of Caravaggio
The Time of Caravaggio Head of a Young Man Bernardo Strozzi

The real awe comes with a series of paintings by Jusepe de Ribera known as the Apostles. Despite seeming straight out of one of today’s horror films, they convey a peerless emotional and spiritual power. Make sure to go to this gorgeous exhibition.


 Il Tempo di Caravaggio – Masterpieces from Roberto Longhi’s collection
Capitolini – Palazzo Caffarelli
Piazza del Campidoglio,
Till January 10,2021