With critical accuracy, penetrating the secrets of a masterpiece, Caravaggio's first work of art, the so-called Boy Peeling Fruit, the soul of the noble city of Perugia is restored to us, in the early 17th century, looking at its culture and society. Carefully selected images accompany the various arguments: the existing copies of the same subject, contemporary critical sources and documents from archives, the archaeology behind early types of fruit and what they represented in paintings of the time.
The work depicts a boy in the act of peeling a citrus fruit. The success of the painting – as far as we know there are about a dozen copies – and the results of extensive research into archives and pictures of the work have led the author to attribute a particular meaning to the subject of the painting, over and above its ‘naturalistic’ value and the age-long arguments about who actually painted it.
The first painting is documented in the collection of a cultured intellectual from Perugia, Cesare Crispolti, and it appears that the picture was probably commissioned by a Humanist cultural association called the ‘Accademia degli Insensati’. Members of the academy composed poems closely linked to the first works executed by Caravaggio in Rome, on complex secular subjects, and impregnated with sophisticated allegorical meaning. In other words, Boy Peeling Fruit is supposed to point to the young man’s virtuous education, in line with the new guidelines on education brought in by the Counter-Reformation.