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Excluded for centuries by academia, Caravaggio (1571-1610) has at last emerged from near-oblivion to take his rightful place in the history of Western art, alongside the greatest masters of the Renaissance and of the 17th century. Caravaggio 's work represents a complete artistic revolution. He began by setting out to restore the material substance of things with a kind of "absolute realism". Then he took this realism into religious painting, choosing his models among ordinary working people and achieving dazzling mastery in the expression of feelings. Thus he became the first champion of the dignity of the real against the prestige value of the ideal. His He-an adventure novel in its own right-counts for a lot in his current popularity. Caravaggio was a violent man and that violence ultimately sealed his fate: condemned to death for murder, he became a longtime fugitive from justice.