Caravaggio and Tenebrism—Beauty of Light and Shadow in Baroque Paintings


  • Haoyang Xu



Caravaggio, Tenebrism, Counter-Reformation, Baroque, Painting, Religion.


The following paper examines the reasons behind the use of tenebrism by Caravaggio under the special context of Counter-Reformation and its influence on later artists during the Baroque in Northern Europe. As Protestantism expanded throughout the entire Europe, the Catholic Church was seeking artistic methods to reattract believers. Being the precursor of Counter-Reformation art, Caravaggio incorporated tenebrism in his paintings. Art historians mostly correlate the use of tenebrism with religion, but I argue that beyond religious purposes, Caravaggio was using tenebrism to meet the naturalism he was admiring for. The paper will thus start with the introduction of tenebrism, discuss the two major uses of this artistic technique and will finally discuss Caravaggio’s legacy until today.


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