BOY WITH BASKET OF FRUIT – Caravaggio 1594
During his apprenticeship with Giuseppe Cesari, Caravaggio created the painting entitled Boy with fruit basket which was later seized by Pope Paul V and given to Cardinal Scipione Borghese.
Caravaggio, Boy with fruit basket, 1593-1594, oil on canvas, 70 x 74 cm. Rome, Galleria Borghese
DESCRIPTION. A FULL BASKET OF FRUIT AND THE CARAVAGGIO COLLEGE
The boy, in the center of the painting, is holding a wicker basket thickly woven with herringbone motifs. Inside there is a great variety of fruit. Three types of grapes can be recognized, white, red and black, then apples, peaches and cherries. The fruits are accompanied by leaves sprouting from the basket on each side.
Dressed in a wide and light shirt, the boy is turned to the right and holds the basket firmly forward. The right shoulder is uncovered and clearly shows the muscular tension produced by the effort, of the same arm, to hold the full basket. The trapezoid is stretched and raised, the collarbone, evident, rises towards the contracted deltoid of which the muscular bundles can be seen. The neck is firmly set and leans back to compensate for the weight of the fruit.
The boy’s head is tilted. The face is depicted of three quarters and the gaze is centered towards the bottom. The half-open lips determine an almost ecstatic, dreamy expression. Some critics have indicated a certain erotic component in the painting, underlined by the uncovered left shoulder. A large black hair crowns the young face of the adolescent that could be Mario Minniti, a young Sicilian colleague of Caravaggio.
Historians and art critics have advanced many interpretations of the painting. Some observe Caravaggio’s desire to represent human and nature with the same intention, a consequence of direct observation of reality. Others link the figure of the Boy with fruit basket to the Latin tradition of xenia, fruit and vegetable compositions donated to the guests of aristocratic homes.
THE STYLE OF THE BOY WITH FRUIT BASKET
Like other paintings by Caravaggio such as the sick Bacchino and the Boy who is a fruit, even a boy with a fruit basket was probably made in the workshop of the Cavalier d’Arpino. These years of apprenticeship are defined as “clear period” because of the fund not yet dark and dark. In the basket, on leaves and fruits, we perceive the nascent naturalistic poetics of Caravaggio, intent on representing also the signs of corruption of nature. The leaves, in fact, appear dried and affected by insects. Finally, the figure of the boy is similar to that of people of the people chosen to interpret divine figures and, therefore, to propose a revolutionary representation of the sacred.
COLOR AND LIGHTING
The colors of the fruits are fresh and lively and stand out within the chromatic composition due to the greater saturation, especially of yellows and reds. The boy’s complexion is intense and reddened on the lips, cheeks and ears and therefore expresses an intense vitality of the subject. The background is gray, turned into ocher. The lighting comes from an external source at the top left and projects environmental shadows on the back wall.
The depth of the depicted space is extremely small and limited by the back wall very close to the boy.
COMPOSITION AND FRAMING
The frame frames the adolescent’s bust and dedicates the entire lower half of the painting to the representation of the basket filled with fruit. The upper half, on the other hand, is affected by the face of the boy in evidence of the large background without figures.
The painting Boy with fruit basket was then made in the period in which Caravaggio completed his apprenticeship at the Cavalier d´Arpino in Rome. In the workshop of Giuseppe Cesari the young artist painted many still lifes, genre scenes and portraits for the Roman nobility. The painting, along with others, was seized by Pope Paul V due to tax disputes. The same Pope later donated his own nephew to a boy with fruit basket, Cardinal Scipione Caffarelli-Borghese, a well-known collector. The painting is therefore still part of the Borghese gallery.