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Caravaggio (1573-1610)


Caravaggio was probably the most revolutionary artist of his time, the Italian painter Caravaggio abandoned the rules that had guided a century of artists before him. They had idealized the human and religious experience.

He was born Michelangelo Merisi on Sept. 28, 1573, in Caravaggio, Italy. As an adult he would become known by the name of his birthplace. Orphaned at age 11, he was apprenticed to the painter Simone Peterzano of Milan for four years. At some time between 1588 and 1592, Caravaggio went to Rome and worked as an assistant to painters of lesser skill. About 1595 he began to sell his oil paintings through a dealer. The dealer brought Caravaggio to the attention of Cardinal Francesco del Monte.

Through the cardinal, Caravaggio was commissioned, at age 24, to paint for the church of San Luigi dei Francesi. In its Contarelli Chapel Caravaggio's realistic naturalism first fully appeared in three scenes he created of the life of St. Matthew. The works caused public outcry, however, because of their realistic and dramatic nature.