The indecorous angel in Caravaggio's "Inspiration of St. Matthew"
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Caravaggio’s paintings in San Luigi dei Francesi are important for understanding the development of the artist’s style in regard to religious imagery. The rejection of his first altarpiece, the Inspiration of St. Matthew, has been generally understood as a result of its atypical composition and indecorous nature. Scholars find the figure of the angel to be feminized and eroticized and, therefore, partially responsible for the painting’s rejection. Careful analysis of Caravaggio’s altarpiece, however, suggests that the artist was basing his angel on an ancient model. In doing so, Caravaggio heightened the religious import of the painting.