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Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi Da (1571–1610)

  1. George Thomas Kurian

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc0233

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Kurian, G. T. 2011. Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi Da (1571–1610). The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011


Italian painter, founder and chief exponent of the naturalistic school of painting. Born at Caravaggio, near Bergamo, he left for Rome after the death of his parents. Here he attracted the attention of Cardinal del Monte, who obtained for him the commission for his first major work. It was a series of three pictures for the Contarelli Chapel in S. Luigi dei Francesi depicting the Calling of St. Matthew, Martyrdom of Saint Matthew, and an altarpiece of The Inspiration of St. Matthew (1599–1603). The Contarelli Chapel paintings were the first of six major Roman church commissions, including the masterpiece The Death of the Virgin. Caravaggio's crude and down-to-earth realism was thought to be revolutionary, especially the dirty feet and sweaty clothes of the poor pilgrims in Madonna di Loreto (1604–1605), the coarse peasants in Madonna dei Palafrenieri (1605), and the deep pathos of the poor and outcast in The Entombment of Christ (1602–04). Caravaggio completed a second major public commission, two paintings for the Cerasi Chapel in S. Maria del Popolo showing the Crucifixion of St. Peter and the Conversion of St. Paul.


  • Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da (1571–1610);
  • Italian painter, naturalistic school of painting;
  • contarelli chapel, calling of St. Matthew;
  • Contarelli Chapel paintings;
  • masterpiece, The Death of the Virgin