Caption: The Inspiration of Saint Matthew

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio liked to be in the spotlight. His wild personality always caught people's attention. Maybe that was one reason that he became a great painter. His dramatic use of light and his unusual realism made him an artistic innovator. Caravaggio is considered the first artist who painted in a style called Baroque.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was born on September 29, 1571. He was born in Milan, but his family moved to Caravaggio in 1576 to avoid the plague. He was only 11 years old when he became an orphan. He then became an apprentice, which was how young men learned the skills for their chosen professions. He worked under a painter named Simone Peterzano for four years.

Caravaggio finished his apprenticeship. He had worked hard, so he decided to go to Rome sometime between 1588 and 1592 to see if he could make a name for himself. Fortunately, he found a job as an assistant painter in Rome, but it was not an exciting position. Assistant artists often painted portions of other artists' work. Apparently, he had the exciting job of painting "flowers and fruit." However, Caravaggio was a feisty artist. Flowers and fruit bored him. He wanted to create his own style, so he soon left that workshop. Caravaggio had many positions in Rome, but he often worked for artists who did not have a lot of talent.

Caravaggio received his first major commission in 1597. His assignment was to paint three scenes from the life of Saint Matthew for a chapel. His first attempt was called Saint Matthew and the Angel. Caravaggio showed Saint Matthew as a dirty peasant with bare, fat legs and a bald head. Caravaggio was the first painter to show saints as ordinary people, which was considered disrespectful. Caravaggio's patrons demanded that the artist repaint this picture.

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