CIRCA 1500s-1600s In response to the Protestant Reformation started by Martin Luther in 1517, the Catholic Church launched the Counter-Reformation during the mid-1500s to 1600s. This period of reformation saw a revival of the Inquisition and the Thirty Years' War, which raged from 1618 to 1648 and involved most of Europe. The Catholic Church also corrected abuses of power and ignited Catholic devotion through schools and missionaries.
Art also became a focus for the Catholic Church, which decided art should serve to inspire the public's faith in the Church. The Baroque style that evolved from the Church's art program was paradoxical: Religious images became more accessible because of the artists' naturalistic treatment of them, while dramatic effects were used to convey the splendor of the divine.
One of the most prolific Baroque painters was Dutch artist Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669). His "Blinding of Samson," created in 1636, dramatically depicts the biblical story of Samson and Delilah. The painting's theatricality is enhanced through his use of light and dark to add drama, a technique known as chiaroscuro. It is also an example of his brilliant technical mastery of form, color, and light.
Rembrandt was deeply religious and so in his self-portrait he depicted himself as Saint Paul, perhaps to suggest he wished for less division among Christian sects.