Caravaggio, whose real name was Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, was born in the small northern Italian town of his surname. He lived a short and frequently troubled life from 1571-1610. Caravaggio's influence in Rome itself was remarkable but short-lived, lasting only until the 1620s. Despite his inability to maintain a workshop or employ apprentices, many painters imitated his style and became known as Caravaggisti. Specific artists influenced by his work included: Artemisia Gentileschi, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Diego Vela¡zquez. .
Orphaned at age 11, Caravaggio was apprenticed in the same year to the painter Simone Peterzano of Milan. At some time between 1588 and 1592, Caravaggio went to Rome. He lived in the slums, virtually without means, with his violent nature frequently getting him into tough situations. Despite his rough beginnings, Caravaggio's innovative style of painting directly on canvas without preliminary drawings influenced painters in Italy and Northern Europe. His depiction of religious themes was aimed at the ordinary observer. Caravaggio's common people bear no relation to the graceful suppliants popular in much of Counter-Reformation art. They are plain working men, muscular, stubborn, and tenacious. Caravaggio never tried to appeal to the socially or culturally elite. His major contribution to art was his sharp contrasting of dark and light, known as tenebrism, enhancing the features of the subjects found in his paintings. This style influenced Italian artists such as Artemisia Gentileschi. .
Gentileschi, known for painting Judith Slaying Holofernes, was one of the first women artists to emerge as a significant persona in Europe. Her paintings incorporated Caravaggio's tenebrism so much that she became known as one of his followers, a Caravaggisti. The dark background of her Judith Slaying Holofernes contrasted sharply by the bright complexions of the figures makes the painting seem to almost glorify Holofernes death.