Severance package … detail of David with the Head of Goliath by Caravaggio.
Photograph: Archivo Iconografico/ Archivo Iconografico, S.A./CORBIS
You can’t make a top 10 of criminal artists without putting Michelangelo Merisi, called Caravaggio after his hometown, up top.
There is a cutting quality to Caravaggio’s art, a tough cinematic realism that puts you right in the mean streets of early 17th-century Rome.
And on those mean streets, he was a dangerous man.
Aggressive, ill-tempered and given to carrying a sword, Caravaggio was constantly in trouble for everything from hitting waiters to slandering rivals.
Eventually, inevitably, he killed a man in a fight on a piazza and had to flee Rome.
On the run he painted works that seem full of guilt, including his dark self-portrait as the severed head of Goliath in which his eyes despair of his sins.