.mw-parser-output .hidden-begin{box-sizing:border-box;width:100%;padding:5px;border:none;font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .hidden-title{font-weight:bold;line-height:1.6;text-align:left}.mw-parser-output .hidden-content{text-align:left}You can help expand this article with text translated from the corresponding article in Italian. (January 2023) Click [show] for important translation instructions. Machine translation, like DeepL or Google Translate, is a useful starting point for translations, but translators must revise errors as necessary and confirm that the translation is accurate, rather than simply copy-pasting machine-translated text into the English Wikipedia. Do not translate text that appears unreliable or low-quality. If possible, verify the text with references provided in the foreign-language article. You must provide copyright attribution in the edit summary accompanying your translation by providing an interlanguage link to the source of your translation. A model attribution edit summary is Content in this edit is translated from the existing Italian Wikipedia article at [[:it:Ragazzo morso da un ramarro]]; see its history for attribution. You should also add the template ((Translated|it|Ragazzo morso da un ramarro)) to the talk page. For more guidance, see Wikipedia:Translation.
Boy Bitten by a Lizard
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions65 cm × 52 cm (26 in × 20 in)
LocationFondazione Roberto Longhi, Florence
Boy Bitten by a Lizard
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions66 cm × 49.5 cm (26 in × 19.5 in)
LocationNational Gallery, London

Boy Bitten by a Lizard (Italian: Ragazzo morso da un ramarro) is a painting by the Italian Baroque painter Caravaggio. It exists in two versions, both believed to be authentic works of Caravaggio, one in the Fondazione Roberto Longhi in Florence, the other in the National Gallery, London.


Both versions are thought to date from the period 1594–1596. According to art historian Roberto Longhi, the latter end of this period seems more likely, given that the paintings have all the signs of the early works painted in the household of Caravaggio's sophisticated patron Cardinal Francesco Del Monte, and that Caravaggio did not enter the Cardinal's Palazzo Madama until some time in 1595.[1]

Identity of model

As with all of Caravaggio's early output, much remains conjectural, and the identity of the model has been debated. One theory is that the model was Mario Minniti, Caravaggio's companion and the model for several other paintings from the period; the bouffant, curly dark hair, and pursed lips look similar, but in other pictures such as Boy with a Basket of Fruit and The Fortune Teller Mario looks less effeminate.[2]

Michael Fried has proposed instead that the painting is a disguised self-portrait of Caravaggio. Fried argues that the subject's hands – one stretched out, the other raised up – are in a similar position to those of a painter holding a palette while painting.[2]


According to Leonard J. Slatkes, the painting's symbolism likely derives from the Apollo Sauroktonos theme in which a poisonous salamander triumphs over the god, while the arrangement of various fruits suggests The Four Temperaments, with the salamander being the symbol of fire in Caravaggio's time. The salamander also had phallic connotations, and the painting might have been inspired by a Martial epigram: "Ad te reptanti, puer insidiose, lacertae Parce: cupit digitis illa perire tuis. (Spare this lizard crawling towards you, treacherous boy/It wants to die between your fingers)[3][4]


The affected pose may have been the inevitable result of the experiment Caravaggio appears to have been undertaking here: observing and recording acute emotions – surprise and fear – in a situation where real surprise was impossible and where the pose had to be held for a considerable period. Critics of Caravaggio's insistence on painting only from life would later point out this limitation of his method: it lent itself to marvelously realistic (if theatrical) static compositions, but not to scenes involving movement and violence. It would only be in his late period, when he seems to have worked more from imagination, that Caravaggio would be able to completely overcome this problem. Nevertheless, Boy Bitten by a Lizard is an important work in the artist's early oeuvre precisely because it shows a way out from the airless stillness of very early works such as Boy Peeling a Fruit and Sick Bacchus, and even the implied violence but actual stasis of pieces such as Cardsharps.[2]

See also


As was first suggested by Roberto Longhi, Caravaggio has probably borrowed the motif of biting a finger from a Boy Bitten by a Crab, a drawing by prominent Renaissance artist Sofonisba Anguissola.[5]

Further reading


  1. ^ Roberto Longhi (1998), Caravaggio. Ediz. inglese, ISBN 88-09-21445-5
  2. ^ a b c Fried, Michael (17 August 2010). The Moment of Caravaggio. Princeton University Press. pp. 7–. ISBN 978-0-691-14701-7.
  3. ^ Leonard J.Slatkes "Caravagio's Boy Bitten by a Lizard", in Print Review #5, Pratt Graphics Center 1976
  4. ^ 'Foulmouthed Shepherds: Sexual Overtones as a Sign of Urbanitas in Virgil's Bucolica 2 and 3', by Stefan van den Broeck
  5. ^ Garrard, Mary D. (Autumn 1994). "Here's Looking at Me: Sofonisba Anguissola and the Problem of the Woman Artist" (PDF). Renaissance Quarterly. 47 (3): 556–622. doi:10.2307/2863021. JSTOR 2863021. It is an ignoble position for a male, one that Caravaggio, when he borrowed the motif, was careful to dignify by eroticizing. As Roberto Longhi first observed, Caravaggio is likely to have taken from Anguissola the finger-biting motif in his Boy Bitten by a Lizard; the point is reiterated in recent literature (e.g., Mina Gregori's catalogue entry in The Age of Caravaggio).[permanent dead link]