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The international movement

Caravaggio’s international reputation spread quickly thanks to the numerous French, Dutch, and Flemish artists in Rome, who disseminated his style across Europe. The Utrecht Caravaggists Gerrit van Honthorst, Hendrick ter Brugghen, and Dirck van Baburen (1592/3–1624) were particularly drawn to Caravaggio’s naturalism. All spent considerable time in Italy and would have had the opportunity to study Caravaggio’s works at first hand.

Caravaggio never painted a picture with a candle in it, yet his name is often associated with candlelight scenes. Artists took Caravaggio’s dramatic chiaroscuro as their starting point, exaggerating his theatrical lighting effects to create works in which the light itself becomes the focus.

Honthorst, dubbed ‘Gherardo delle Notti’ (‘Gerard of the Nights’) on account of his predilection for night scenes, was instrumental in generating interest in candlelight paintings and stimulating variations on the theme. Georges de La Tour, whose knowledge of Caravaggio was almost certainly indirect, took the genre to a new level of sophistication and refinement.