Masters of Darkness

Masters of Darkness

Caravaggisti in the collections

In early 17th-century Rome, the Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) developed a radical new style of painting. This had a great impact on Baroque art. As an alternative to the artificiality of the entrenched Mannerist style, Caravaggio’s expressive and naturalistic art induced painters from all over Europe to emulate his style.

The foreign artists who lived and worked for a period in Rome contributed to the rapid diffusion of Caravaggism to France, Spain, and The Netherlands. Here you can see works from Nationalmuseum’s collection made by artists active during the first half of the 17th century, who were influenced by Caravaggio’s pictorial innovations. These artists received official commissions from the Catholic Church such as altarpieces and frescoes. They also worked for aristocratic art collectors who, at this time, added private galleries to their palaces.

The paintings are characterised by realism in the depiction of figures and objects, and by strong contrasts of light and shadow. The solid figures emerge from the surrounding darkness, modelled by a strong directed light. The dramatic light effects, the lively narratives, and the virtuoso rendering of different textures, create a visual tension in the paintings. Caravaggio’s highly expressive art has inspired modern photographers, video artists, and filmmakers.

Vanitas Still Life
A Poet from Antiquity
A Young Man Reading by Candlelight
Sleeper Awakened by a Young Woman with Fire
St Paul the Hermit
The Veil of Saint Veronica
The Penitent Magdalen
Judith with the Head of Holofernes
The Holy Family
The Adoration of the Magi
Still life with fish and oysters