Similar to Orazio Gentileschi, Battistello Caracciolo was also a solid follower of Caravaggio’s style. He was one of Caravaggio’s notable pupils during the late 16th century and became a significant master at the Neapolitan School of Painting at Naples. And being a pupil of Caravaggio, Caracciolo was able to absorb the styles and techniques of his master that continued his legacy beyond his death in 1610.
Caracciolo painted religious and biblical characters for most parts of his mature years. He used real-life models to capture the gesture and expression realistically. Thus, he was able to put a lot of intensity in the emotion of his characters. This technique highly resembled his old master’s, which art historians would call the Caravaggesque style.
Some examples of his crafty creations include Rest of the Flight to Egypt (1618), Washing of the Feet (1622), and Trinitas Terrestris (1617). These works have been classified as both classical and naturalistic by schemes, style, coloring and overall technique.
Battistello Caracciolo was born on December 7, 1578 in Naples. He was the son of a nobleman Cesare Caracciolo and wife, Elena. The family was fairly well-off and had lived in San Giovanni Maggiore. Caracciolo presumably had his earliest training with a friend, Luigi Rodriguez at the studio of Belisario Corenzio.
In 1601, Corenzio and his team were tasked to paint some putti on Monte di Pieta’s façade, which by now, had been destroyed. This is his earliest work as an apprentice during his adolescent years. At the age of 20, he married Beatrice di Mario da Gaeta with whom he had ten children.
His marriage served him well as became inspired to work harder on his creative process. For ten years, he was influenced by the mannerist painting tradition of Cavaliere d’Arpino; however, all of his works during this period are now lost.
Moving from the mannerist tradition of d’Arpino, Caracciolo began to look up to Caravaggio when he was in Naples. The arrival of Caravaggio was a pivotal moment in his career. The influence of the said master was evidenced in most of his religious art works.
Caracciolo may have close encounter with Caravaggio in 1606 albeit the master stayed briefly due to some life-altering threats to him. But Caravaggio left a profound impact on the lives of the younger artists in Naples. His revolutionary style; dark palette, accurate anatomical figures, dramatic schemes and use of light as a device captured the interest of Caracciolo, who was five years younger than Caravaggio.
This began the Caravaggesque phase in Caracciolo’s life particularly when he worked as the master’s assistant. Together, they worked on a commission by Radolovich around October 1606. The collaboration did not end there as it continued in early 1607 when Caravaggio was completing the Seven Works of Mercy. Throughout the time that they had been together, Caracciolo learned to adopt the style of master whose influence can be seen in his The Crucifixion of Christ and Crucifixion of St. Andrew.
In 1607, Caracciolo received a commission to paint an Immaculate Conception altarpiece for S. Maria della Stella. This art work is an example of Caravaggio’s profound influence on the painter as it embodies all of the characteristics of Caravaggesque naturalism. Of course, while working on his style, he developed his master’s chiaroscuro completely to add some edge to his work.
Around 1610, he would have been developed close ties with a wealthy art patron Pio Monte della Misericordia and the Jesuit Order. It was a religious institution that actively sought painters in Naples to do some art works for them. While working for these institutions, Caracciolo befriended some significant artists like Marchese di Villa, Marino and Giovanni Battista Manso. Aside from painters, he also had poet-friends in Basile who had written him a poem in his collection Madrigali e Ode in 1617.
Additionally, under the influence of Caravaggio, Caracciolo had done several art works for different clients some of which were small-scale. Some of these include Ecce Homo, ST. Joseph, Madonna and Child, the Baptism, and the Way to Calvary. In 1610, he was contracted by Marcantonio Doria to paint a St. Lawrence for San Martino.
Caracciolo went to Rome anywhere between 1612 and 1614. He most likely met up with Orazio Gentileschi during his visit there. He wanted to learn more about the Roman painting style and method so he took this opportunity to absorb some techniques for in his return, he would use them.
Upon returning to Naples, he began working on two altarpieces for Pio Monte della Misericordia institution. These altarpieces were comprised of the Liberation of St. Peter (1615) and the Trinitas Terrestris in Pieta dei Turchini (1617). These works served as an extension to the Seven Works of Mercy by Caravaggio dedicated for the same church. This public commission went successful that it earned him recognition by the Neapolitan School of Painting to become its member.
After his successful stint under Pio Monte della Misericordia, Caracciolo paid a visit to Genoa, back to Rome and then to Florence. He went back to Rome again to register himself as a member of the St. Luke’s Guild and observe some works of Annibale Carracci closely. He also visited Carracci’s Bolognese School of Painting to get to know its students and studio in general.
In Florence, he completed a commission whereby he was tasked to paint the Rest on the Flight to Egypt in 1618. He also studied the painting style of Seicento Florentine and around this time he would have probably came in contact with Allori, Bilivert and Artemesia Gentileschi.
Lastly, Caracciolo visited Genoa to fresco the interior of casino of Marcantonio Doria. It was located at San Pierdarena where he spent a year working there alongside Simon Vouet.
Toward the end of 1625, there were some changes in the quality of painting and chiaroscuro of Caracciolo. They looked reinforced to a greater level as the forms became somewhat distorted sharing a resemblance to the works of Giovanni Lanfranco, whose works he probably observed when he went to Rome. Caracciolo’s works on the Assumption of the Virgin for Assunta S. Martino Chapel and the Adoration of the Magi for Sala del Capitolo at San Mattino provided evidence to the changes in his painting.
The last ten years of his life were spent in studying the art works of Lanfranco and Domenichino who visited Naples during the 1630’s. Caracciolo still did some frescoes, S. Anna and Judgment of Solomon subjects, for the Oratorio dei Nobili at Palazzo Reale. The Neapolitan painter died on December 19, 1635 in Naples.