Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Fine Arts


Art and Visual Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Robert Jensen


In the sixteenth century, the nocturne genre developed in Italian art introducing the idea of a scene depicted in the darkness of night. This concept of darkness paired with intense light was adopted by Caravaggio in the late sixteenth century and popularized by himself and his followers. The seemingly sudden shift towards darkness and night is puzzling when viewed as individual occurrences in artists’ works. As an entire genre, the night scene bears cultural implications that indicate the level of influence culture and society have over artists and patrons. The rising popularity of the theater and the tension between Protestantism and Catholicism intersected to create a changing view on the perception of darkness and light. This merging of cultural phenomena affected Caravaggio and his contemporaries, prompting them to develop the nocturne genre to meet the growing demands for darker images.