Rule-breaker for the ages: why Caravaggio is our screen age’s art superstar

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With his final masterpiece on show in London and his influence all over Ripley with Andrew Scott on Netflix, the troubled painter’s appeal endures

‘Do you like Caravaggio?” asks wealthy Dickie Greenleaf of his enigmatic new friend, Tom Ripley, early in the current Netflix drama based on Patricia Highsmith’s famous thriller, The Talented Mr Ripley. The query is a sort of test, and about more than simply class. It is intended as a measure of character, of soul. For Greenleaf, the playboy son of an American shipping magnate on a permanent holiday on the Amalfi coast, the answer could function as a key, unlocking a world of shared culture and tastes.

Questions about Caravaggio are also being asked in London as the National Gallery opens its doors on a show that examines artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s last work, displayed in Britain for the first time in 20 years. His 1610 masterpiece, The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula, has been lent by a gallery in Naples and is a large, shadowy study of violence and religious fervour.

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