To his death, Caravaggio remained protective of his art. During his exile, his patrons continued to hope that maybe soon he would return to them, but he never did. Upon his return, his style would have responded again, as it had so effortlessly ebbed and flowed with the different regions he visited, responding to their wealth, spirituality, poverty, sickness, and crowds, and he perhaps would have continued into further greatness. Caravaggio didn’t many material possessions (we know this from inventories taken of his belongings), but he did have one thing that he prized above all else and that was wholly his own: his art.
Caravaggio was a revolutionary and an innovator whose art breathed new life into the aesthetics and mechanics of Catholic devotion. He was not leader or a mentor who welcomed or recruited others to copy what was his. Caravaggio was simply a man “of a fantastic humor … bizarre” and above all, a good man and painter “who [could] perform well in his art and … paint well and imitate natural things well.”
- Excerpt from Caravaggio the Leader.