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At the turn of the 17th century, two differing styles emerged that were to affect the future of painting across Europe. One was idealised and classicising, as demonstrated by the works of Annibale Carracci and Guido Reni, and the other, introduced by Caravaggio, was powerfully naturalistic.

Although profoundly different in their representation, both were based on a return to the study of nature. What emerged from these two different approaches are the characteristics of the Baroque style – the dynamic compositions, dramatic lighting, vivid use of colour, and intense expression of emotion evident in the paintings hanging in this room.