Caravaggio and the Artichokes

23 February 2011

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…