It is all stridently Mediterranean - the light, the colours, the fruit and the boy. It conjures up the flavours of sixteenth century Rome in an idyllic yet realistic presentation.
Mario Minniti was a friend, a fellow artist and frequent model for Caravaggio. He was very young, just sixteen, when he posed for this painting. In spite of his tender years he appears wise and bold. His muscular shoulders reveal all the strength and vigour of blooming youth.
His gaze is direct; in this painting he is looking straight at us as he holds a large basket laden down with glowing, summer-ripe fruit. Maybe he is offering us some?
If you gaze long upon the picture, the fruit seems to acquire a vaguely 3D effect; it has a vivid, shiny light which makes it seem to stand out. It is in complete harmony with the boy, yet the glowing colours give it a life of its own.
Grapes are prominently displayed, white, black and red. Peaches and pears and pomegranates, alongside apples and figs, complete the menu, and various leaves, interestingly displaying some imperfections, round off the composition.
Michelangelo Merisi, better known as Caravaggio, was born in Milan in 1571. He studied art there, but soon moved to Rome (in 1592) where there was a demand for artists to decorate the many churches that were being built in this period.
In 1600, his first public commissions revealed his fine talent, and many successes followed. His innovative style, combining lush naturalism with stark chiaroscuro, became known as tenebrism.
In his turbulent private life, his unruly and brash character got him involved in many brawls and street-fights for which he paid the consequences: prison or banishment.
One fight got out of hand when a person was killed and Caravaggio was accused of homicide. He fled to Malta, and then to Naples, where he continued to end up in fights. He died mysteriously in Tuscany in 1610. He was 38 years old.
Boy with a basket of fruit was painted in 1593; it was one of the artist's first paintings upon his arrival in Rome. It is oil on canvas, 70 cm x 67 cm, and currently hangs in Rome's Galleria Borghese.