Paintings By Caravaggio That Made Him the Ultimate Master Of Chiaroscuro

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A young rowdy boy who roamed in the streets with a dagger in his hand and revolution in his mind!

A boy who not only was a pimp but was one of the renowned Baroque artists who gave spark to the famous Baroque art movement.

As an artist he died young but his art still carries the legacy of the painter.

I am talking about Caravaggio! Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.

I am sure you must have heard about paintings by Caravaggio and the man himself!

A revolutionary thinker and one of the most innovative Renaissance artists of the time.

Even though he was one of the famous Italian artists he remained active in Rome for most of his artistic career.

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Everyone praised Caravaggio’s artwork and he influenced a lot of artists around the globe.

Even though his work was performing pretty well , his personal life was very rocky.

He had issues with people around him, he had murder charges on his head, he was a wanted criminal and also his death is one of the biggest art mysteries till date.

Caravaggio’s paintings had the perfect balance of light and dark colors and the technique was called Chiaroscuro

So, let us look at these famous paintings by Caravaggio which represented his mastery in his art of Chiaroscuro.  

1. The Calling of St. Matthew

A famous painting by Caravaggio named the calling of St. Matthew
Image Source: wikipedia

This Caravaggio’s painting is a phenomenal work of art which represents the use of Chiaroscuro. 

He completed this beautiful work of art in the year 1600 and is one of Caravaggio’s famous paintings. 

It is a prominent and famous Biblical painting that  motivated the artists to create paintings of Jesus.

This painting was from Caravaggio’s early career that  helped him rise to fame.

This painting by Caravaggio depicts the appearance of Jesus and he is guiding Matthew towards the destined path.

Matthew is a money lender who can be seen following Jesus’ impressions and converts to Christianity.

It is also said that Pope Francis used to take a look at this painting multiple times as he was left awestruck by Caravaggio’s painting.

This painting by Caravaggio is one of the best examples of the skill of chiaroscuro.

This art piece is housed in the San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome. 

2. Narcissus

Narcissus by Caravaggio
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This is one of the most beautiful Renaissance paintings by Caravaggio and it highlights the obsessive focus of the youth towards themselves.

Using the Chiaroscuro technique, Caravaggio finished this painting in the year 1599.

The muse for Caravaggio for this painting was Narcissus, the son of the River God, Cephissus. 

Narcissus by Caravaggio is inspired from the Greek mythology of Narcissus which depicts that Narcissus was a self-obsessed man.

He broke many hearts because he was busy adorning himself. So, the gods punished him by letting him sit beside his own reflection in a pool. 

On a close observation we can see that in this particular Caravaggio painting, he has used the elements of light and dark very well.

This artwork apparently gets struck the viewers at the first glance as it hints at the loneliness the boy in the painting must be feeling.

It is believed that this painting must be created by Caravaggio when he was exiled from Rome as he faced a murder charge over him.

This art by Caravaggio is housed in the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in Rome.

3. Judith beheading Holofernes

A famous painting by caravaggio named Judith beheading holofernes
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This Caravaggio’s painting is based on a biblical story of Judith who murdered Holofernes, a general of the Assyrian army.

By Judith Beheading Holofernes, Caravaggio depicts the bravery of the young and charming but widowed Judith who beheaded Holofernes to save her city and people.

This painting portrays justice over anything with Judith emerging as a heroine.

Caravaggio has impressively used the effects of light and shadow in his works which later was compared to the artworks by Leonardo DaVinci

This painting safely hangs in Palazzo Barberini in Rome.

4. Medusa

Medusa was a painting by Caravaggio
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A painting which equally represents violence and realism, which was completed in the year 1597.

Medusa by Caravaggio is one of a kind mythological painting which was heavily influenced by the biblical subjects.

Caravaggio decided to paint Medusa only after gaining significant popularity. 

This painting was commissioned by Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte on a shield. 

He wanted it to be a ceremonial symbol of the courage of the Duke of Tuscany.

One of the reasons why Medusa became famous was because of Caravaggio’s use of skills that made the surface look concave.

He painted the head of Medusa with perfection which ultimately diverted the viewer’s attention from his rocky life as a pimp to the mesmerizing painting. 

It is known as one of the most famous scary paintings ever!

This painting rests in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

5. Basket of Fruit

painting by caravaggio basket of fruit
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This painting by Caravaggio was completed by the artist in the year 1599.

Caravaggio in this painting has depicted a perfect, humble and exemplary still life. 

It is basically a basket of fruits kept in a corner, but when Caravaggio drew it he used the perfect elements of symbolism.

He has used a finer color pallate which also strikes the viewer’s attention to a haiku, which is a japanese form of short poetries which are precise.

In this painting by Caravaggio you can see a basket of rotten fruits, wilted leaves and dew drops that represents that the time is one the verge to stop.

He has also focused on the color modulation of the fruits which makes the fruits pop from the frame.

Through this Caravaggio’s painting he has portrayed the importance of balance in life which makes this painting one of the most phenomenal paintings of still life.

This Caravaggio’s still life painting is housed in Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan.

6. The Cardsharps

famous caravaggio's painting the cradsharps
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This painting by Caravaggio has a deep meaning behind it and was the first painting to implement  the concept of Chiaroscuro. 

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In this painting we can see that it depicts the snippets of cheating and dupes in a game of cards.

Each character in the painting depicts one or the other kind of information to the viewer but only the information which is necessary.

Caravaggio, in this painting, has portrayed the characters playing poker and this painting is one of the famous paintings of Baroque movement!

Instead of depicting mythological characters he has painted new faces which are surprising for the viewers as well. 

This painting is now housed in the Kimbell Art Museum.

7. Saint Jerome Writing

Saint Jerome writing by caravaggio
Image Source: wikipedia

This painting by Caravaggio is one of a kind and portrays medical work for the first time in Renaissance history.

To your surprise, this painting by Caravaggio has been left undone by him.

He had to flee to Rome in urgency as he was involved in a murder. 

In Caravaggio’s painting you can see that he has focused more on the left arm, face and overall texture of the painting.

This painting actually portrays death. This is made clear with the skill evident on the left corner of the background. 

Use of the skull in Renaissance paintings usually depicted the stopping of time and advent of death. 

Saint Jerome can be seen concentrated towards reading and writing sacred scriptures even in his last times.

This painting was under a lot of speculation as for almost a decade this artwork was credited to Jusepe de Ribera

So, people were actually questioning whether Caravaggio made it or not?

This painting now rests in the Borghese Gallery and Museum in Rome, Italy.

8. Bacchus

Saint Jerome writing by caravaggio
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This Caravaggio’s painting features a young boy who is believed to be the Greek God Dionysus or also known as the God of wine.

Many contemporary artists from that art period and era tried to define it as an allegory or portrait of Jesus Christ.

It depicts Dionysus wearing a white robe which is roughly wrapped around his body.

He can be seen serving wine and ripe fruits to people. In this painting, Caravaggio has also used the concept of vanitas, which is basically still-life.

The basket of fruits depicts Caravaggio’s mastery in still-life and deep symbolism. 

It is believed that the dirt under the boy’s nails is from excessive self-pleasure.

Bacchus by Caravaggio now hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.

9. David with the Head of Goliath

David with the head of Goliath by Caravaggio
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This is a dark painting by Caravaggio that triggers the psyche of a viewer.

In this painting Caravaggio has focused on Goliath’s head which is in David’s hand??   With blood dripping down Goliath’s neck. 

On the other hand David can be seen with a sword that  he used to slay his  head.

A glimpse on David’s face represents that he is suffering with  tremendous grief and is visually disturbed by holding Goliath’s head.

Caravaggio has created this painting to accept his mistake as he had killed a citizen in Rome.

Both the subjects in this painting can be seen in complete shock and the use of light is focused on the beheaded Goliath. 

This artwork by Caravaggio now hangs in Galleria Borghese in Rome, Italy.

Suggested Read: Famous Baroque Paintings

10. The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist

The beheading of saint john the baptist by caravaggio.
Image Source: wikiart

The only signed painting by Caravaggio is one unsettling piece of art by the artist.

He had signed this painting right where we can see Saint John the Baptist bleeding.

Caravaggio has used warmer tones in the painting but he has made sure to use a tint of dark brown to highlight the ground and background of the painting.

It is believed that Caravaggio is somewhere related to the murder of Saint John the Baptist, even though nothing is proved.

There is a whole theory which is related to this painting, which takes hints from the signature of Caravaggio to the subjects of the painting-

Take a look at this video to know more about Caravaggio’s hidden message in this painting:

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In this painting we can see that the subjects appear almost frozen and Caravaggio has found a way to depict the heinous scene in the same way.

What makes this painting disturbing is the fact that Saint John is held straight from the back of his neck with his hands folded back.

This portrays how helpless Saint John must have been while he was assassinated. 

The following painting by Caravaggio now rests in St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta.


So, this is all about the masterpieces by Caravaggio. His paintings were a prime example of mastery of Chiaroscuro. 

Caravaggio has other famous paintings as well, such as sick Bacchus, death of the virgin, etc.

I have tried to compile the incidents and information that revolve around these famous paintings by Caravaggio.

As the father of one of the leading art movements he has created a lot of Baroque paintings.

Most of his paintings are either safely placed in some of the prestigious museums or are missing or lost.

I am pretty sure that you must have loved these paintings by Caravaggio! Do you wish to own one of Caravaggio’s paintings?

Don’t worry we got you covered, 

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You can have one remade just for you by our professional artists, who have worked hard and effortlessly to pace up their skills to match the painting style of Caravaggio.

Author’s Note

Thank you for reading this article about Caravaggio’s paintings. 

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Q1. How many paintings by Caravaggio has survived?

Total 105 paintings by Caravaggio has survived till date.

Q2. Name some of the famous paintings by Caravaggio.

Some of the famous paintings by Caravaggio are: Bacchus, Basket of Fruits, The Cardsharps, etc.

Q3. What was Caravaggio’s prominent painting style?

Caravaggio was a Baroque artist who prominently used Baroque and Renaissance style in the creation of artworks.

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