Caravaggio, a painter of light and shadow in his life and work

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is one of the great masters of the Baroque. In his works, his great use of the chiaroscuro technique stands out above all. Next, we discover everything you need to know about the life of this famous Italian painter and where you can see his most notorious creations.

Brief biography of Michelangelo Merisi

Michelangelo Merisi was born in Milan in the year 1571, although it was not long before he moved with his family to Caravaggio, the city from which he would end up taking his stage name. After working as an apprentice of the painter Iombardo Simone and completing his apprenticeship, he began to move to learn about the artistic and cultural heritage of his hometown.

Martha and Mary Magdalene by Caravaggio

In 1592 Caravaggio moved to Rome. There he worked in Giuseppe Cesari’s painting workshop, until two years later he decided to leave it to make his own way. In this way, and after carrying out various religious commissions, he ended up becoming the most famous painter in the Italian capital.

However, Caravaggio was not only known for the original approach to his works, but also for the various and continuous fights in which he was involved. In one of them, in 1606, he ended up killing a man, for which he had to flee from Rome. Four years later died in Porto Ércole from malaria.

After Caravaggio’s death, the influence of his work lasted and inspired many other artists. He did it above all in relation to the use of chiaroscuro, the interpretation of psychological realism and the drama that his works convey.


“When there is no energy, there is no color, no shape, no life.”


Caravaggio works in Spain

Salome with the head of Saint John the Baptist by Caravaggio

Madrid is the Spanish city that houses the most works by the Italian painter. One of them is Saint Catherine of Alexandriaexhibited at the Thyssen Museum and in which his naturalism stands out, as well as the interpretation he made of light and volume. For the painting she had as a model the famous courtesan Fillide Melandroni.

From the Thyssen Museum we moved to the Prado Museum to observe the oil David conquers Goliath, which shows the episode in which the young shepherd kills the biblical giant with his sling and then cuts off his head and exhibits it as a triumph. It seems that the painter portrayed himself in the figure of Goliath thinking that he would die in the same way.

For its part, the Royal Palace of Madrid exhibits the painting Salome with the head of John the Baptistone of the best works of Caravaggio’s final period due to its color, the contrast of lights characteristic of tenebrism or the great realism with which he portrayed the characters that appear in the painting.

Other cities on the peninsula that can also boast of having some work by the famous Italian painter are Barcelona and Toledo. In Barcelona you can admire St Geronimo, at the Museum of Montserrat. In Toledo there is Saint John the Baptist with the lamb, specifically, in the cathedral of Santa María.

Other works by Caravaggio and where to find them

Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio

Most of Caravaggio’s works are in his country of origin: Italy. Some examples are Boy with fruit basket (Borghese Gallery, Rome), The resurrection of Lazarus (National Museum, Messina), The Flagellation of Christ (Museum of Capodimonte, Naples) or Bacchus (Uffizi Gallery, Florence).

Likewise, Caravaggio was commissioned to decorate the Contarelli Chapel of San Luigi dei Francesi and the Ceresi chapel of Danta Maria del Popolo, both in Rome. For the first she made The vocation of Saint Matthew Y The martyrdom of Saint Matthewand for the second, The crucifixion of Saint Peter Y The conversion of Saint Paul.

Leaving Italy we meet Emmaus Supper (National Gallery, London), one of his masterpieces; The beheading of Saint John the Baptist (Co-Cathedral of Saint John of Valletta, Malta), the only one bearing the painter’s signature; either The crowning with thorns (Vienna Art History Museum), one of his most beautiful paintings.

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