Who Was Caravaggio?

Caravaggio was a controversial and influential Italian artist. He was orphaned at age 11 and apprenticed with a painter in Milan. He moved to Rome, where his work became popular for the tenebrism technique he used, which used shadow to emphasize lighter areas. His career, however, was short-lived. Caravaggio killed a man during a brawl and fled Rome. He died not long after, on July 18, 1610.

What was the tenebrism used for?

Tenebrism is used exclusively for dramatic effect – it is also known as “dramatic illumination”. It allows the painter to spotlight a face, a figure or group of figures, while the contrasting dark areas of the painting are sometimes left totally black.

‘Judith Beheading Holofernes’ – represents the first time Caravaggio chose to depict such a dramatic subject. He captured the moment of decapitation with dramatic flair by using lighting from the side against an inky, black background. The realism of the scene is undeniable, marked especially by the facial expressions of the figures. Holofernes contorts his body and screams, while Judith’s expression reveals a mix of determination and repulsion. In fact, the realism of the painting has led some to believe that Caravaggio was influenced by the highly publicized execution of Beatrice Cenci in Rome in 1599.

Bio: https://www.biography.com/artist/caravaggio

Art work: https://www.caravaggio-foundation.org/