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Coined in the early part of the 20th century, this term is widely used to describe the international artistic phenomenon which spread across Europe in the first half of the 17th century.

Caravaggism is used to classify paintings executed in a Caravaggesque style; that is, works which emulate Caravaggio’s naturalism and dramatic lighting effects (known as chiaroscuro). The phenomenon was at its peak in the decades immediately following Caravaggio’s death in 1610, but began to wane towards the middle of the 17th century when the taste for naturalistic painting shifted decidedly towards a more idealised, classical tradition.