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He was born on September 29, 1571. By the time he was eleven, he became an orphan and he became an apprentice to Simone Petersano of Milan. When he was seventeen, he went to Rome to work for more artists. For five years, he jumped from one employment to the other, as an apprentice for other painters with less than impressive talents. In 1595, he sold a painting to Cardinal Francesco del Monte. Caravaggio was now under the wings of the church and enjoyed the protection of the cardinal, complete with board and lodging, plus pension in the house of the cardinal. He was now a commissioned artist and is quite famous.
His works are very realistic and this appealed to the people in that era. His clients were mostly the religious but despite the spiritual deprivations Caravaggio had when he was growing up, he delivered his art quite well. He must have had at least forty works made for Del Monte. The realism and the play of light started showing in his paintings styles.
One must take note that this happened in the Baroque period. Baroque art is heavily influenced by religion, specifically, the Roman Catholic religion. It also reflects the tensions between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. In the early fifteenth century, the Roman Catholic Church answered the Protestant Reformation movement with Counter Reformation and used art to influence its faithful followers. The light play in light and shadow, as well as the use of realism and portrayal of everyday life was the main schemes of this movement. This is why Caravaggio became successful in this era, as he was supported by the clergy.
As there was emphasis on realism and the everyday life, Caravaggio employed laborers as models for his paintings of saints. This act was taken as an offense by the public but he never had a shortage of commissions (but this movement about representing religion in paintings faded, as Baroque as an art movement emphasized daily living and realism). He
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