On the Run
In Rome, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610) was always on the wrong side of the law. He was in and out of prison. He carried a sword. He loafed about taverns. He didn't pay his rent for six months. He harassed women, rival artists—anyone who slighted him. He assaulted waiters, notaries, and other public officials. He was also the greatest artist alive. Perhaps only in Rome, Europe's art capital, could a man like Caravaggio enjoy the protection of the power elite who depended on art for their prestige. Rome needed Caravaggio, and Caravaggio needed Rome. Then, on May 28, 1606, the great painter killed a man named Ranuccio Tommasoni. The reckoning had come: Caravaggio was sentenced to death. So he fled South.