His name is Michelangelo Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610). He was born Michelangelo Merisi in Caravaggio, Italy. Later, he was given the name of his birthplace. Like Rembrandt, he is known today simply as Caravaggio.
Christ’s disciples are in shock and disarray at the sudden death of Jesus, and the disappearance of his body. Two of his disciples are on the road to the town of Emmaus, when a stranger joins them. They invite the stranger to supper at a local inn. It is only when they are about to begin the meal that the disciples recognize the man as Jesus himself, resurrected.
One man throws out his arms in shock and surprise, while the other starts from his chair. The moment is made more dramatic by the theatrical lighting of the scene.
He created scenes of extraordinary realism that were very dramatically lit. This innovation – the use of dramatic light and shadow (dramatic value contrasts) – is what I call “theatrical lighting”. Caravaggio’s scenes seem to take place on a darkened stage in a theater, the action lit by a single, powerful spotlight. His figures aren’t idealized, but seem realistically human.
Rembrandt softens the light, sacrificing some of the stark drama for a warmer glow of light on the figures.
Ouch! That’s not nice! He was imprisoned for a time for killing a man in a dispute over the score of a tennis match. Bad sportsmanship! Caravaggio was always on the run from either thugs or the law. He traveled throughout Italy to escape his pursuers, painting masterpieces along the way. His “lifestyle” finally caught up with him and he died of exhaustion and disease at the age of thirty-nine.
Another artist profoundly influenced by Caravaggio was Artemisia Gentileschi (Italian, 1593-1651). She is an important artist for two reasons. First, she is the first woman in the history of Western art to make a significant contribution to the art of her time. Second, Artemisia was important in spreading the influence of Caravaggio across Europe.