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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Caravaggio: a Life Sacred and Profane by Andrew Graham-Dixon: review

The two things I loved best about this book were the reproductions of the paintings, including a few by the lesser artists of the time for comparison, and the cinematic potential in Caravaggio’s last five years. Perhaps ‘a life history’ is a better word, as Caravaggio remains an obscure person. Graham-Dixon’s iconographic glosses, as deceptive as the metallic chastity belt that was clamped over the genitals of Michelangelo’s David when it was trundled through the streets of Florence, wish respectability on carnal details ans the paintings.

An example is an extended passage from the trial after artist Artemisia Gentileschi’s rape. With too little facts to work with, I’d have preferred for Graham-Dixon to have shortened his narrative and let his art commentary speak for Caravaggio. A spectacular biography in every way imaginable. This is a book that will remain with me for the rest of my life.

It was great to have Graham-Dixon show us Caravaggio’s paintings in great detail and with much sensitivity. This is a big book and it took me a long time to read, not the least because I had to keep looking up every picture and artist mentioned online and stare at the paintings. The result is peculiar: I think there was more information about every single fight he got in and every time he threw rocks at somebody, etc.

Tellingly, one profanf Graham-Dixon’s most verbally exuberant riffs on a painting celebrates the pornotopia of Omni Vincit Amora still life in which a collection of geometrical tools and musical instruments abstractly engage in “an orgiastic series of sexual consummations”.

Lucy’s martyrdom and perhaps his own path to Christianity.

Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane

He apparently had no problems obtaining commissions but he had a violent temper and was frequently in brawls and in jail. I’d sooner have heard more about Pasolini, whose andd of peasants as apostles in his The Gospel According to St Matthew directly follows Caravaggio’s practice of using a prostitute to impersonate the Madonna, or about Jarman, whose film Graham-Dixon disdains to mention.


Reviewed by Brian Jay Jones Being a tortured rock star is tough in any century. Alas, Caravaggio was not to retain his knighthood for very long: I know it’s a cliche, but facts about this artist’s life are so few and far between he is very much like his own paintings: By Charles Saumarez Smith.

I’m not always persuaded by this moralising x-ray: The character of the painting, and indeed the very fact that it was commissioned at all, suggests that those in charge of the commission had few doubts about the painter’s ability. And sarced did it his way — populating even religious paintings not with unrealistic idealizations but with naturalistic people and locations from his own day, the models usually being the poor, his friends, and local prostitutes.

Graham-Dixon’s work will eliminate any notion of frivolity about the study of art history. Inhis extraordinary talent caught the attention of Cardinal Francesco del Monte who subsequently became his first patron. Duels, prostitution and Caravaggio’s flight to Malta all add to a rich portrait of a troubled genius. Their success meant that he never lacked commissions or patrons. He had a high concept of himself but debased himself with gusto.

An excellent, thoroughly researched and compelling biography of an artist that caravagggio become one of my favorites. 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. Thanks for telling us about the problem.

The Sacro Monte was a set of sculptural groups distributed around some hills. But perhaps most importantly to would-be scholars and historians is that Graham-Dixon does nothing to hide the labor of pouring through the very intricate legal records left behind by the Church and Rome.

Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane | Book review | Art and design | The Guardian

In exchange for the money owing to the Order to be invested as a Knight of Magistral Obedience, Caravaggio agreed to paint a large altarpiece for the Oratory of St John, built immediately next door to the cathedral in Valetta. Caravaggio kills another man, lands in prison, then, tantalizingly, somehow pulls off a daring escape of which no details are known.

So Graham-Dixon has to pick over the bones to try and get to some level of truth about the Italian master.

The stories of the Italian Renaissance and most particularly of the Templar Knights was utterly fascinating as was Caravaggio’s repeated successful attempts to “escape” justice until it finally caught up to him in the end. Splendid book about a painter whose life was as wrapped in violence as it has been shrouded by conjecture. After he had finished the central picture of St Matthew and installed it on the altar, the priests took it down, saying that the figure with its legs grossed and its feet rudely exposed to the public rpofane neither decorum nor the appearance of a saint.


The St Matthew was rejected as soon as it was delivered. View all 9 comments.

Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane | Washington Independent Review of Books

I was interested to learn that Orazio Gentileschi was an acquaintance of Caravaggio’s. The book creates a more subtle, complex, and persuasively human portrait of a man too often reduced in the past to the caricature of the bad boy artist—violent, promiscuous, rebellious and profan.

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.

That’s surely a little too prim. Michaelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, the brilliant, brooding, bad boy of the 16th-century art world, whose rise to fame in his early 20s seemed propelled as much by sheer force of will as it was talent, and whose fall profabe the age of 40 makes for a spectacularly self-destructive tragedy worthy of Shakespeare — or at least of Sid Vicious, Jim Morrison, Keith Moon and countless other hard-living rock-and-rollers.

At this point, Graham-Dixon addresses revisionist attempts on Caravaggio’s sexuality. Thus it is likely that some of Caravaggio’s violent behavior was caused by lead poisoning.

He escaped as a fugitive back to Sicily and then back to Naples where a gang, probably sent from Malta, attacked him, held in down, and carved cuts on his face to create scars. While I know that a biography of an artist or writer must discuss his or her works, long descriptions of works should be minimized if it is a biography rather than a work of criticism.