Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it is also a dubious honor. For some 15 years, until his death in 1610, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s brooding and beautiful works scandalized Church and patrons alike, and left a generation of followers — and copycats — in his wake.

The Teien Art Museum’s new exhibit, “Caravaggio and His First Followers,” is an intriguing collection of eight of the master’s works, and some 30 Italian canvases of the 1610s and ’20s that reveal artists struggling to absorb the techniques, themes and passion of their groundbreaking precursor. A few are impressive artists in their own right, many more are competent pupils and some have missed the point completely.

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