Caravaggio was one of the greatest artists of all time. He was also one of the most controversial. Nicolas Poussin once said of Caravaggio that he came into the world to destroy the art of painting. Artist, convicted murderer, and adventurer, Caravaggio was offensive and provocative in art as in life. His drunks and thugs impersonating saints set in Rome’s filthy alleys and seedy taverns shook the art world to the core. Caravaggio sneered at classicism and the canons held sacred since the Renaissance and chose to rely on natural observation instead. This course focuses on issues of style, content, and patronage to understand Caravaggio’s art and its deeper implications. Was his rejection of refinement a criticism of the excesses of the church? Was it an appeal by the embattled Roman church to the poor and underprivileged? Or was it simply a radical avant-garde statement for its own sake?