Italian Baroque Style, Tenebrismo By Caravaggio

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Italian baroque style, Tenebrismo by Caravaggio

There was a great religious crisis throughout Europe in the 16th century, the Protestant reform represented the break with the hierarchy of the Church, and the inheritance of the Middle Ages. The Church through the counter -reform aims. The council revived religious art, enhancing the images and cult of the saints.

Art becomes a persuasive tool, so the Church becomes a potential patrons in this period, although it is not the only. Throughout Europe there are absolute monarchies, who enhance art for political convenience, therefore, Baroque is an art that exalts both political and religious power. Keep in mind that the bourgeoisie (especially in Flanders and Holland) is also demanding works of art.

The Baroque term, with which the art developed in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century is designated, is synonymous with extravagant, absurd, abnormal … was adopted by the critics of the eighteenth century with a derogatory sense. Today, on the contrary, it is considered one of the most great in art history. One of the most important characteristics of Baroque is the tendency to interaction between artistic disciplines, creating total works of art (Theatrum sacrum), and together with the search for movement, there are the light effects that also have an important role.

Caravaggio is the creator of the tenebrism, consisting of cutting the characters about the use of dark backgrounds, illuminating them with a directed and violent light, as a theater focus, making the gestures more evident and, therefore, bringing the figure to the spectator. For his compositions uses reality, without idealization, the naturalism of Caravaggio, breaks with the idea of beauty of the Renaissance. Represents the deformed and pain, drama and violence.

In the European Baroque, we find two types of paint, wall painting and on canvas, in this case the work is an oil on canvas. This painting presents the characteristics of the style: grandiosity, theatricality, movement … Caravaggio had a tumultuous life, since it was a born provocateur, and even exiled to Naples. Traditionally his last work is considered, in which he is self-portrait as Goliath, since he was sentenced to decapitation, although he was later pardoned.

Regarding formal analysis, this work clearly follows the three -thirds rule. The point of greatest interest is Goliath’s head (Caravaggio), moreover, the author uses David’s direction to the decapitated head as an instrument to give him more theatricality and importance. The viewer begins the visual tour from the head to David’s gaze and then again at Goliath’s head. It is also remarkable, the clear diagonal that marks the sword breaking the composition of the three thirds, creating tension to the public.

Iconography treats a bible verse, although in this case the work did not have a religious background, but political, since it sought the Pope’s pardon. Caravaggio can be influenced by Miguel Ángel, since in "the final judgment" also used its self-portrait with political background. Many artists like Rubens or Rénier were influenced by the possibility of working natural. Finally, regarding this work there is no record of modifications or restorations, and can be found in the Borghese gallery.


  • Baroque: Historical, cultural and social context – History and other stories [publication in a blog]. (2018, August 6). Retrieved January 9, 2020, from http: //
  • Caravaggio. (s.F.). Retrieved January 10, 2020, from https: // history-
  • Wikipedia collaborators. (2020, January 8). Caravaggio box. Retrieved January 10, 2020, from https: // is.Wikipedia.or or wiki/david_con_la_cabeza_de_goliat
  • Artehistory – Geniuses of painting – David card with Goliath’s head. (s.F.). Retrieved January 10, 2020, from http: // //
  • David with Goliath’s head | (s.F.). Retrieved January 10, 2020, from https: //
  • Wikipedia collaborators. (2020b, January 9). Italian Baroque painter. Retrieved January 10, 2020, from https: //
  • Caravaggio’s influence on the artists of northern Europe. (s.F.). Retrieved January 10, 2020, from https: //

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