Caravaggio was no stranger to run-ins with the law. Accused of killing at least two men and having done several stints in prison, the painter put his own multiple arrests on canvas when he interpreted this Biblical episode known to every Sunday school student.
Also, think about how stunning the dark, stark look of this painting must have been at the time:
[Caravaggio’s] style — realism and high-contrast lighting directed with dramatic precision against haunting, black backgrounds — changed art forever. His work made the Sistine Chapel’s figures and religious scenes look like clumsy, antiquated, cartoons. In an age of intolerance, Caravaggio almost single-handedly killed off traditional religious art and made money off the Church in the process, all the while behaving like a savage.
“His work made the Sistine Chapel’s figures and religious scenes look like clumsy, antiquated, cartoons.” Whoah!