Caravaggio in Palermo: story of a painting that can(not) be seen


This photo shows a part of the “Natività con i santi Lorenzo e Francesco d’Assisi”. A painting made by a master of the Italian painting, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, who left traces of his talent also in Palermo. The painting in the photo can’t be seen anymore. Or maybe yes.

“Ne la natività ritrovato ho lo meo verde, lo meo bel rutilante verde”. In the book “Il colore del sole” (The color of the sun), the author Camilleri let Caravaggio say these words. Who found, even if for little time, a glimmer of tranquility during his stay in Palermo.

And in that days he painted the Natività. The subject of the artwork is the born of Christ. The theme is narrated following the stylistic features he always used: the figures of the painting are real, pervaded by a sense of realism. After all, the Saints and the Virgin Maries drew by Caravaggio  have always had the features of poor and emarginated people. Who were knew by him during his constant wander.

The painting was presumably realized between 1600 and 1609. Maybe in Rome, maybe in Palermo. Natività were then placed in the oratory of San Lorenzo in Palermo, on the main altar. Where it remained until the night between the 17th and the 18th October 1969.

When it was stolen. There’s no certainty about the identities of the authors of the theft. And nobody knows where the painting is. An artwork like this is difficult to be sold. It’s feared that Naitività is hidden in a stable outside the city. Where it was nibbled by rats and pigs. And the rests burnt.

The damage is enormous. But the city of Palermo didn’t want to renounce to this artistic treasure left by Caravaggio. So, on the main altar of the oratory of San Lorenzo there’s a reprint that will let you admire Natività in all its realistic beauty.



Image source: “Nativita con i santi Francesco e Lorenzo”. Con licenza Pubblico dominio tramite Wikipedia

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