Completed around 420 years ago, this work of artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (better known simply as Carravaggio) was created in 1599-1600 for the Contarelli Chapel in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome.

Caravaggio The Calling of Saint Matthew

Caravaggio's 'The Calling of Saint Matthew". PICTURE: Via Wikipedia.

The painting depicts the moment recorded in the Gospel of Matthew in which the tax collector Matthew is called by Christ to follow him. It shows Matthew, also known as Levi, seated at a table with four other men going about his work while Jesus and Peter stand nearby, Jesus raising his arm to point at Matthew. All appear to be dressed in costumes which would have been contemporary in Caravaggio's time.

While it's generally assumed a bearded figure at the table is St Matthew (who is shown pointing at himself, perhaps questioning whether he was the one Jesus was calling), there is some debate over this. It's also been suggested that Jesus' hand in pointing towards Matthew was deliberately painted to resemble that of Adam's in Michelangelo's work, The Creation of Adam, in the Sistine Chapel and as such may reflect the Biblical concept that Christ came as the Second or Last Adam.

The work hangs alongside two other of Carravaggio's works - The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew (which may have been started before the Calling but was completed after) and The Inspiration of Saint Matthew (1602).

The chapel in which it hangs is in the church of the French community in Rome and was paid for thanks to an endowment left by the French cardinal, Matthieu Cointerel (Contarelli in Italian), who died in 1585.