One of Naples's most important paintings is housed in this modest, octagonal chapel: Caravaggio's seminal 1607 Seven Acts of Mercy. It was commissioned in 1601 by a charitable institution of seven noblemen whose aim was to alleviate the suffering of the poor and needy in the city through good works, illustrated in this great, dramatic painting that hangs over the high altar. Famous for its chiaroscuro (light and dark) effects, it shows the Virgin and Child borne by angels with huge wings; in the background is an earthy street scene set in the SpaccaNapoli, the neighborhood where the chapel is located.
An elevator in the courtyard will take you to the small second-floor picture gallery where there are works by other Neapolitan 17th- and 18th-century masters such as Luca Giordano, Massimo Stanzione, and Giuseppe Ribera. In the third room is the seven-sided table where the original members of the institution met (the confraternity still exists today), while the Sala Coretto opens onto a secret gallery from which the governors could spy into the church below: It looks directly onto Caravaggio's masterpiece.