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Art and Images in Psychiatry |

Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus

James C. Harris, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67(12):1210. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.164.
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This year marks the fourth centenary of the death of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610).2,3 Surprisingly this is the first centenary to be celebrated. Despite receiving recognition during his lifetime, he was soon forgotten after his death as new trends appeared in art and the influence of the prelates who supported him waned. Caravaggio's legacy suffered too from the biases of his early biographers toward his work and his long history of brawls and disputes with others during his lifetime. Art historian Robert Longhi is credited with his rediscovery. His reassessment resulted in a series of articles (1928-1934) and a major retrospective exhibit in Milan in 1951.3 Caravaggio is now recognized as the father of modernism in painting. He did not found a school but was widely emulated in the early 17th century by other artists, who were known as Caravaggisti. His dramatic use of chiaroscuro (contrasting light and shadow) was emulated by many prominent artists of his time, and echoes of his style can be found in the works of Rembrandt, Rubens, and Velázquez. Despite Caravaggio's unruly temperament his greatest works, many controversial at the time, were widely acclaimed (epigraph). Two-thirds of his 50 known works depict subjects from the New Testament or reflect religious themes, yet little is known about his own spiritual life.

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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610), Italian. The Supper at Emmaus, 1601. Oil and tempera on canvas, 141 × 196.2 cm. Presented by the Hon. George Vernon, 1839. http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/michelangelo-merisi-da-caravaggio-the-supper-at-emmaus. © National Gallery, London, United Kingdom/Art Resource, New York, NY.

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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610), Italian. Supper at Emmaus, 1606. Oil on canvas, 141 × 175 cm. Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, Italy. Photo credit: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York, NY.

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