Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2018

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 07/03/2020

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Art History

First Advisor

Scott, John Beldon

First Committee Member

Johnson, Dorothy

Second Committee Member

Adcock, Craig

Third Committee Member

Hochstrasser, Julie

Fourth Committee Member

Mentzer, Raymond


In 1905, Caravaggio was resurrected as a figure of historical importance when art critic Roger Fry designated him as the harbinger of modern art. In his commentary on the artist, Fry declares that: “He was, indeed, in many senses the first modern artist; the first artist to proceed not by evolution but by revolution; the first to rely entirely on his own temperamental attitude and to defy tradition and authority.” Fry’s assertion of Caravaggio’s modernity is derived from early-modern biographies on the artist, which claim that Caravaggio self-consciously broke from the art of the past in a deliberate act of artistic revolution.

The conflation of the artist’s biography with his work has remained a constant in Caravaggio scholarship since its inception. Modernity’s Caravaggio is a character with many guises – a painter, a sodomite, a pimp, a murderer, a fugitive, and a knight – all of which have molded our perception of a man who died centuries ago. Caravaggio’s modern appeal is evident in the numerous exhibitions, movies, miniseries, novels, and even a ballet, produced in celebration of the artist Fry proclaimed “one of the most interesting figures in the history of art.” This dissertation traces Caravaggio scholarship, as well as popular manifestations of the artist, through the twentieth century to present day by probing the theoretical and methodological trends that have shaped the discourse. My aim is to demonstrate that modernity’s Caravaggio is a construction derived from the most prevalent historical, aesthetic, and philosophical debates of the twentieth century.


Baroque, Caravaggio


xii, 197 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 189-197).


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Copyright © 2018 Heather Dale-Shea Thorpe

Available for download on Friday, July 03, 2020