Caravaggio’s disturbing art was a reflection of his life. As a result, “Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane” reads like a historical- swashbuckler-cum-detective-story while also providing an. Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane. Andrew Graham-Dixon; W.W. Norton; pp. Reviewed by Brian Jay Jones; October 4, This scholarly but spirited.
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This scholarly but spirited biography explores the life of Caravaggio, the brilliant, brooding, bad boy of the 16th-century art world.
Reviewed by Brian Jay Jones Being a tortured rock star is tough in any century. Michaelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, the brilliant, brooding, bad boy of the 16th-century art world, whose rise to fame caravahgio his early 20s seemed propelled as much by sheer force of will as it was talent, and whose fall before the age of 40 makes for a spectacularly self-destructive tragedy worthy of Shakespeare — or at least of Sid Scred, Jim Morrison, Keith Moon and countless other hard-living rock-and-rollers.
These are the basics lire but given that the paper trail left by the painter as he slouched and swashbuckled his way across Italy is either nonexistent or invisible, Graham-Dixon, at times, has to adopt the tones of a detective novelist as he scours one obscure craavaggio after another, aacred criminal depositions, buried letters and coroner reports to bring the painter and his world to vivid life.
Borromeo believed in a Christ incarnate, insisting that his subjects visualize a living, breathing Christ in the hope that doing so would make his suffering and sacrifices that much more graphic and glorious.
InCaravaggio headed for Rome where he began producing increasingly sophisticated and highly realistic paintings, even as he continued to behave badly, falling in with a crowd of shady young men who encouraged his fighting, whoring and skulking about.
Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane by Andrew Graham-Dixon
Yet, his undeniable talent ensured him admirers, benefactors and protectors happy to look the other way — or bribe an official or two — to keep the young man painting. His paintings of coy fortune tellers stealing rings off the finger of a mark, or of crooked card players fleecing unsuspecting well-to-do young men are almost like snapshots of singular moments in time, telling a complete story in a single image and catching the particular event at its most dramatic moment.
The buzz generated from these slice-of-life paintings led to commissions for chamber pieces and, eventually, altarpieces and other religious paintings — a genre at which the swaggering, profane Caravaggio would excel.
There would be no Christ or Mary ascending to heaven on feathery clouds; instead, Christ plods along on dirty, bare feet, gesturing for St. Matthew as he leans over a counting table.
A real prostitute poses for a dying Virgin Mary as balding disciples sob around her. And in each, Caravaggio lights his figures dramatically against nearly pitch black backgrounds, almost literally highlighting the moment and forcing the viewer to pause and reflect — and, perhaps, move them sacrde penance, as Borromeo might have hoped of viewers of the sacro monte.
Like a painterly Mozart surrounded by a sea of dabbling Salieris, Caravaggio saw many of the more prestigious commissions go to lesser artists who worked in the safer, more traditional styles. Seething, Caravaggio eventually ends up taking part in a duel in which a hotheaded pimp named Ranuccio Tomassoni is critically wounded — and Graham-Dixon has uncovered new evidence which he believes suggests a far more salacious motivation for the fight, which prior biographers have attributed to a spontaneous dust-up over a tennis match.
With a price on his head, he hustles to Malta, where he becomes one of the favored Knights of Malta and tries to sweet talk his way into forgiveness by producing portraits of some of the leading members of the court.
Later, he sends a potential benefactor a painting of David with the head of Goliath, substituting his own head for the slain giant — a final plea for a clemency that never arrives. Sadly, his temper again gets the best of him: Caravaggio kills another man, lands in prison, then, tantalizingly, somehow pulls off a daring escape of which no details are known. Brian Jay Jones is the author of the award-winning biography Washington Irving: He is presently at work on the first authorized biography of Muppet creator Jim Henson.
Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane | Book review | Art and design | The Guardian
He lives in Maryland with his wife varavaggio daughter and a very excitable dog. Read more at www. Support the Independent by purchasing this title via our affliate links: In this age of extended youth, this novel is a Catcher in the Rye for the Millennial set. Book Review in 67 Shots: A fresh look at an era-defining U.