Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was born in 1571. At the age of 6 he was orphaned by an outbreak of bubonic plague, and at the age of 11 he moved to Milan. There he trained as a painter under Simone Peterzano, who had himself trained under Titian. Then, at 16, he moved to Rome to make his living where there was great demand for religious paintings.
When Caravaggio was in his early 20s his work was noticed by Cardinal Francesco del Monte, who gave the artist a room, board and a pension. Then, in 1597, he was commissioned to decorate a part of the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome. He was tasked with painting three large paintings, each showing a different scene from the life of Saint Matthew. The realistic style of the resultant paintings upset some viewers, and one of the works, Saint Matthew and the Angel, had to be redone in a more reverential fashion.
Although he lived in the 16th-17th centuries, Caravaggio would not have been out of place amongst some of the 20th century artists. He was a violent man and prone to drinking and gambling, which led to him being imprisoned many times. He even killed a man in 1606, for which a death warrant was issued by the Pope. Because of this the last four years of Caravaggio's life were spent on the run.
Caravaggio was famous during his own lifetime but shunned after his death. Nevertheless, his works had a strong influence on the Baroque style which followed after him. According to one art historian, "what begins in the work of Caravaggio is, quite simply, modern painting."