This is what Milo Manara had to put drawing more pictures of Spider-Woman with her bum up in the air on hold for… Caravaggio. To be published across Europe next week.
We have ten pages from the French edition, interspersed with the English translation of Milo Manara's letter to Caravaggio,courtesy of Eurocomics USA Invasion from the special deluxe Italian Artist Edition of "Caravaggio: the Brush and the Sword" published by Panini Comics Italia.
"Master Michelangelo Merisi,
I am a comics artist.
Many years ago, under examination of my artistic maturity, the professor tapped the cover of the Art History book with his index finger and said to me: "Tell me about this." On the cover it was Your "Basket of Fruit".
Well, I nailed it: I knew everything about You. At least everything a student could know, back in those days. I have always had a genuine reverence for You. And then there was the matter of the initials: You see, Master, You and I have the same initials.
Yes, so does Mario Minniti but at the time I had not even heard about him. In short, for one reason or another, in my personal pantheon, You have always occupied the highest bench. The beauty of it is that, looking at my artwork, You would never guess it.
These things happen. For example, far be it from me to make comparisons, but for heaven's sake, even the great Rubens, Pieter Paul Rubens, whom I greatly admired, yet his art was the farthest removed from Yours imaginable.
He was very different from You in every sense: he was elegant, he frequented the court, he loved the good life and the beautiful perfumed ladies, yet he fought like a lion to save Your Death of the Virgin (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_the_Virgin_(Caravaggio)) from burning. Although You dressed elegantly too, in black. Only thing is You wore the same clothes until they fell to pieces. Now, You should know that I've taken the liberty of retelling some of Your life, about Your stay in Rome and I intend to retell the subsequent years, after that nasty business with that asshole Ranuccio Tomassoni. Mine is a story told with drawings and I know that You have never had much sympathy for drawing: I apologize for this, but it's the only thing I can do. Think of the oddness, Master: I'm addressing You as if You were older than me, when in fact I am the elder, much older than You. Odd, isn't it?
But the real purpose of my letter is to ask You for confirmation of a certain episode.
I understand that Your colleague Orazio Gentileschi (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orazio_Gentileschi) lent You a pair of large wings that You painted on the angel's shoulders in Rest on the Flight into Egypt (en.wikipedia.org/…/Rest_on_the_Flight_into_Egypt_(Caravaggi…). Then, to pay him back, one evening You went to Gentileschi's studio with those big wings on Your shoulders and You came across Philip Neri (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Neri), by then a very old man, and his entourage of ragged boys going around singing and dancing, with cymbals and tambourines. Kind of like those that we, nowadays, call Hare Krishna.
Now, this is how I imagine that scene: Saint Philip and his kids see a large shadow slipping on the wall, with those huge wings. Surely they should have thought they were in the presence of an angel. The kids, definitely. And maybe even more so, Philip Neri. I ask You to confirm this because some eminent scholar claims that You would never have been able to meet Philip Neri, as the holy man died in 1595, while You arrived in Rome only in '97. It is true that the first document mentioning You in Rome is from '97, according to the testimony of the barber's errand boy to whom You gave a cloak You found in the street, but this does not exclude at all that You could have arrived in town five or six years before: maybe in '91 or '92 yet You didn't give them any reasons to mention You in the news or in the police reports. Maybe You just behave well for the first few years.
Yes, knowing You, that seems almost impossible, but Giovanni Baglione (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giovanni_Baglione) (or "Gian Coglione", "John the dickhead", as You called him) wrote that You were about twenty years old at the moment of Your arrival. Anyway, here's my question: what did Philip Neri say when he realized it was You and not an angel? I look forward to Your answer, unless I'm boring You a little too much. I kiss Your holy hands, Maestro.