Petrus van Schendel studied at the Academy of Antwerp under the tutelage of Jan van Bree. Blending the Romantic with the Neo-Classical, he specialized in nocturnal Dutch market scenes where he explored the subtle and theatrical effects of candle and lamplight on the human face and body. He was a member of the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam and of the Rotterdam society Arti Sacrum.
Van Schendel was clearly influenced by the 17th Century northern masters of light, collectively known as the Utrecht Caravaggisti. This group, comprised of Gerrit van Honthorst (1592-1656), Hendrick ter Brugghen (1588-1629) and Dirck van Baburen (1594-1624), traveled to Rome at the beginning of the 17th Century and became entranced with the work of Caravaggio (1573-1610). The Utrecht Caravaggisti transformed Caravaggio's revolutionary patterns of natural light and shadow into economical and powerful compositions, heightened by their personal styles to create dramatic areas of contrasting light and dark. This movement had an important impact on Dutch painting and was more than just a local phenomenon. It laid the groundwork for subsequent artistic developments throughout Northern Europe and culminated two centuries later in the intricate studies of nocturnal light in the paintings of Petrus van Schendel who was named Monsieur Chandelle by the French.