LATELY — 23 February 2011

Caravaggio and the Artichokes

Caravaggio (1571–1610)
Caravaggio (1571–1610)

Amazingly, police records describing Caravagio’s numerous scrapes with the law have survived until today, and are currently part of an exhibition at Italy’s State Archive. Some of the details are summarised in a splendid piece on BBC News, including this wonderful police statement of a waiter who claimed to have been attacked by Caravaggio in a disagreement over artichokes:

About 17 o’clock [lunchtime] the accused, together with two other people, was eating in the Moor’s restaurant at La Maddalena, where I work as a waiter. I brought them eight cooked artichokes, four cooked in butter and four fried in oil. The accused asked me which were cooked in butter and which fried in oil, and I told him to smell them, which would easily enable him to tell the difference.

He got angry and without saying anything more, grabbed an earthenware dish and hit me on the cheek at the level of my moustache, injuring me slightly… and then he got up and grabbed his friend’s sword which was lying on the table, intending perhaps to strike me with it, but I got up and came here to the police station to make a formal complaint…