Caravaggio was one of the most influential painters of the 17th century. He was born near Milan and moved to Rome in the 1590s, specialising mainly in still-life paintings or half-length figures which often seem sexually charged.
His dramatic use of light was imitated by huge numbers of artists. He was often in trouble with the law; so much so that his movements can be tracked by reading his criminal records. In the last four years of his life, forced to work away from Rome, the mood of his paintings became darker and more pensive. Some believe this reflects the downturn in his own troubled life.
He died of a fever, aged 38, poor and alone, at Porto Ercole on his way back to Rome, with the promise of a papal pardon.