Realism is closely related to knowledge: in order to create an artwork that is a faithful account of reality, or that seeks to convey such an impression, knowledge is necessary. Some currents of seventeenth-century painting may seem to exemplify this connection; in particular, the painters following Caravaggio are usually described as realists or naturalists, and are often attributed an uncompromising ambition to transmit visual knowledge about the world, perhaps similarly to the “New Scientists.”
If the Caravaggisti do represent and transmit knowledge, however, it is a highly shadowy one. Literally speaking, the major innovation of these painters was the audacious use of darkness. More abstractly, their paintings are full of lacunae and ambiguities. Some recent discussions of realism in philosophy make it possible to conceptualize realism as “negative” or “minimal.” In this paper, such ideas will be brought to bear on Caravaggist painters in Naples just after Della Porta’s time.
Ibid., p. 99. “The critical attitude towards the epistemological shortcomings of visual images and pictorial representations,” and in particular of linear perspective, is already anticipated by Leonardo da Vinci and in the writings of the protagonists of the Protestant Reformation, as well as, later and more radically, in the ideas of Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo; see ibid., pp. 109–111.