The need in art for Chiascuro is so obvious that we think it has always been with us. The contrast between the two to create form and shape seems to have never been out of our artistic minds, but it has. The man who brought it to the fore was Michelangelo Merisa da CARAVAGGIO (1573-1610). After the Renaissance in 1592 he moved from Milan to Rome introducing chiascuro to European painting where it would remain for centuries.
The painting that most honestly describes his attitude towards bringing the reality of the characters and items into the viewers space is Supper at Emmaus.
True to St. Marks Gospel Christ appears flooded in light and beardless in another likeness as a youthful, perfectly formed man after all he had suffered at his crucifixion to his astonished disciples. The man on the right wearing the shell badge of a pilgrim, arms outstretched echoes the shape of the cross, his left arm protruding into the viewers space. The elbow of the man on the left and the basket of fruit on the edge of the table do the same, each lit from Christ's glow.
The innkeeper to Christs left casts a shadow that falls onto the wall behind, missing Jesus altogether. All four figures loom out of the darkness of the inn with the aid of chiaroscuro. Symbolism pervades the painting but that is not the subject of this article. Although paintings of today may not always have symbolic content, the theory of light and shade does have a very prominent part to play.Not all artists wish to reproduce the gloom around their characters as Caravaggio did, but they know why such contrast is necessary to enable us to see the important features of the work one against the other. Without the long shadows, the cricketers on the field at close of play would not leave the same effect. We owe a lot to Caravaggio.