Calling of St. Matthew
St. Matthew and the Angel
Martyrdom of St. Matthew
Happenstance granted Caravaggio his first major commission, in 1598. Matthieu Cointrel (a Frenchman whose name became Italianized as
Matteo Contarelli), who became cardinal under Pope Gregory XIII, was having the Church of S. Luigi Dei Francesi rebuilt, and the
Contarelli Chapel added to it. Muziano and Cavaliere d'Arpino (Giuseppe Cesari, late Italian Mannerist painter) worked on this renovation,
but in the meantime Matteo Contarelli passed away. The person appointed to execute the latter's will, a certain Virgilio Crescenzi, was
put in charge of the project's continuation. In 1596, feeling the project had been too greatly slowed down, the clergy of S. Luigi dei
Francesi expressed their annoyance to the Pope. The Pope replied by contacting Crescenzi, asking that things be speeded up and, upon
the recommendation of Cardinal del Monte, commissioning Caravaggio to provide three paintings for the chapel.
The cycle inaugurated in 1601 caused such a scandal that one panel was totally refused. These three works, based on the life of St. Matthew, in themselves summarize Caravaggio's entire output: the painter in all his facets is present in the Contarelli chapel.