Le clair-obscur existait bien avant que le Caravage n'arrive sur scène, mais ce fut lui qui établit définitivement cette technique, obscurcissant les ombres et rivant son sujet à la toile par un rayon de lumière aveuglant. Son influence fut immense, et se propagea d'abord grâce à ses disciples plus ou moins directs.
After staying in Milan for his apprenticeship, Michelangelo da Caravaggio arrived in Rome in 1592. There he started to paint with both realism and psychological analysis of the sitters. Caravaggio was as temperamental in his painting as in his wild life. As he also responded to prestigious Church commissions, his dramatic style and his realism were seen as unacceptable.