Difference Between Tenebrism and Chiaroscuro

Tenebrism vs Chiaroscuro

Tenebrism and Chiaroscuro are two famous Italian kind of art painting. They both use the variety of light and dark color mixture. Aside from being popular amongst Italians, Dutch and Spanish artists are also getting inclined with this type of art.


Tenebrism also called by the Italians as Tenebroso which can be translated into English as a very dramatic illumination. The illumination is very dramatic because of the disturbed mixture of darkness and lightness. The inventor and creator of this style in painting is Michelangelo Caravaggio, an Italian celebrity painter known for his paintings such as Calling of Saint Matthew and Martyrdom of Saint Matthew.


Chiaroscuro is another kind of Italian lightness and darkness style of painting. Other artists sued them also in manipulating light color and textures as to achieve a seemingly three-dimensional result of any object like fruits, buildings, and even the physical attributes of a human. This painting style is invented and created by Roger de Piles, a painter and an art guru from France during the Renaissance period.

Difference between Tenebrism and Chiaroscuro

Tenebrism came into popularity around 17th century in Italy and some in Spain. The Chiaroscuro on the other hand is famous already on Renaissance era around 14th century even before the Tenebrism is invented. Both of these arts are invented by two European artists: Tenebrism by Michelangelo Caravaggio which comes from Italy and Chiaroscuro by Roger de Piles which comes from France. The Tenebrist’s uses more darkness in the light-dark contrast while the Chiaroscuro’s uses more light. Famous Tenebrism artists are Rembrandt, Gerrit van Honthorst, and Georges de La Tour. Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli are famous Chiaroscuro artists.

The art of Tenebrism and Chiaroscuro are part of the history already which have been passed on from the early years and still practiced until now. What makes them special from other type of arts is the contrasting combination of lightness and darkness making it like a fight between good and evil.

In brief:

• Tenebrism is developed by Michelangelo Caravaggio and Chiaroscuro by Roger de Piles.

• Chiaroscuro gained popularity during the 14th century while Tenebrism on the later years around 17th century.

• Tenebrism uses more darkness whereas Chiaroscuro utilizes more the opposite which is lightness.