- One of the leading figures of early baroque painting at Rome. His proper name was Michelangelo Merisi (1571-1610), but he was called Caravaggio after his home town near Milan. He received his early training under a Milanese master, but he developed a highly personal style notable for its naturalism and its dramatic contrasts of light and darkness. Some of his best early work was done in a chapel of the church of S. Luigi dei Francesi, notably The Calling of St. Matthew, which shows traits of both the older mannerist and the new baroque style. This presentation of a scene from the New Testament in terms that reflect the life of the lower classes shocked many contemporaries, who found it irreverent. In his own time, Caravaggio's paintings were regarded highly by other artists and sophisticated patrons but not widely appreciated by the general public. He worked in Rome from about 1593 to 1606, when he fled from Rome after committing murder. He spent most of the rest of his life in Naples and Malta. Though known to be a fugitive, he retained the favor of the highest ranks of society.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.