Bartolomeo Manfredi Biography1582-1622
Italian Baroque Painter
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.