Polidoro Caldara, usually known as Polidoro da Caravaggio (Caravaggio, 1492 or 1495 – Messina, 1543) was a mainly decorative painter of the early Renaissance, "arguably the most gifted and certainly the least conventional of Raphael's pupils", who was best known for his now-vanished paintings on the facades of Roman houses. He was unrelated to the later painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, usually known just as Caravaggio, but both came from the same small town, and the fact that Polidoro had a high reputation may have led Michael Merisi to take the by then rather unusual step of adding the name of his home town to his own name.
According to Vasari, whilst working as a labourer carrying the materials for the builders of the Vatican loggie he ingratiated himself with the artists, and attracted the admiration of Maturino da Firenze, one of Raphael's main assistants in the ongoing decoration of the Vatican. He then joined Raphael's large workshop, in about 1517, and worked on the Raphael Rooms in the Vatican. He and Maturino then set up as painters of palace facades with considerable success until the sack of Rome by the army of Charles V under the command of Constable de Bourbon in 1527, in which Maturino was killed. Polidoro da Caravaggio fled to Naples, and from there to Messina, where he was very successful. According to tradition, he was about to return to the mainland of Italy when he was robbed and murdered by an assistant, Tonno Calabrese, in 1543.
Some of Caravaggio's principal paintings are a Crucifixion, painted in Messina, and a Deposition of Christ (1527) and a Christ bearing the Cross (1530-34) both in the Museo di Capodimonte of Naples, who have the best collection of his work (an oil sketch for the latter is in the National Gallery, London ). They are very individual in style, extremely free in technique, and powerful in expression. The Christ bearing the Cross shows considerable Northern influence, probably reflecting the traditionally strong links between Sicily and the Netherlands.
His other works, as well as those of his partner, Maturino da Firenze, have mostly perished from exposure, as most were external decorations on the facades of palaces, but are known from many etchings by PS Bartoli, C Alberti, etc. They were authors of the facade decoration in classicising Graffito, usually in grisaille, of several Roman houses, like those ones in Borgo and in Parione (near Santa Maria della Pace and in Via del Pellegrino). A series of nine small internal wood panels from an unknown palace, perhaps in Naples, of which eight are now in the English Royal Collection, and one in the Louvre, give an idea of the liveliness and quality of these lost works: "Polidoro learned from Raphael the idea of re-creating the decoration of classical antiquity; but he did so with a wit, freedom and spirit of his own". Items 6-12 Being always visible to the public, whilst they lasted the palace facades were very well known and influential, and used by "generations of young artists ... as a visual textbook". There are also many surviving drawings of high quality.