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Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane | [Andrew Graham-Dixon]

Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane

In the tradition of John Richardson's Picasso, a commanding new biography of the Italian master's tumultuous life and mysterious death. For four hundred years Caravaggio's (1571-1610) staggering artistic achievements have thrilled viewers, yet his volatile personal trajectory - the murder of Ranuccio Tomasini, the doubt surrounding Caravaggio's sexuality, the chain of events that began with his imprisonment on Malta and ended with his premature death - has long confounded historians.
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Publisher's Summary

In the tradition of John Richardson's Picasso, a commanding new biography of the Italian master's tumultuous life and mysterious death. For four hundred years Caravaggio's (1571-1610) staggering artistic achievements have thrilled viewers, yet his volatile personal trajectory - the murder of Ranuccio Tomasini, the doubt surrounding Caravaggio's sexuality, the chain of events that began with his imprisonment on Malta and ended with his premature death - has long confounded historians. In a bravura performance, Andrew Graham-Dixon delves into the original Italian sources, presenting fresh details about Caravaggio's sex life, his many crimes and public brawls, and the most convincing account yet published of the painter's tragic death at the age of thirty-eight. With illuminating readings of Caravaggio's infamous religious paintings, which often depict prostitutes and poor people, Graham-Dixon immerses readers in the world of Italy at the height of the Counter-Reformation and creates a masterful profile of the mercurial painter's life and work.

©2010 Andrew Graham-Dixon (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

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  •  
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 08-28-13
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 08-28-13 Member Since 2010

    I am an avid eclectic reader.

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    "Interesting life"

    It is obvious that Andrew Graham-Dixon has done a lot of research before writing this book. The book is well written and keeps one interested throughout the book. Graham-Dixon not only covers the life of Caravaggio but also provides the history of the catholic church and Italy during the life of the painter. This in-depth coverage made me feel as if I was there. Edoardo Ballerini did an excellent job with all the Italian names. Before reading this book I knew nothing about Caravaggio. Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio was born in Milan on 27 September 1571 and died 18 July 1610 in Porto Ercole. He studied in Milan then in his twenties moved to Rome. He apparently had no problems obtaining commissions but he had a violent temper and was frequently in brawls and in jail. His style of painting had a formative influence on the Baroque School of Painting. He created the style of shadows that make his pictures unique. Graham-Dixon explains each of his major paintings in depth about his technique as well as who hired him and how he worked on the painting. I liked the fact that Graham-Dixon explained the findings of other authors about Caravaggio and if there was new evidence on the subject he explained the findings. This was most evident in his discussion about Caravaggio killing a man in Rome and then his flight to Naples and eventually Malta. Of course, Caravaggio produced paintings in all the cities he visited during his flight. He thought his patron had obtained clearance from the Pope to return to Rome but Caravaggio caught a fever on his trip to Rome from Malta and died at Porto Ercole. I wanted to see some of his painting and I found the Caravaggio foundation has them available on the web. I came into this book knowing nothing but I now feel I have a good understanding of the man and the times he lived in. If you are interested in art or history I am sure you will enjoy this book.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CHESTER LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 06-24-14
    CHESTER LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 06-24-14 Member Since 2007

    Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.

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    "ART'S BAD BOYS"

    Caravaggio is one of art’s bad boys. Born in 1571, Caravaggio arrives in the midst of religious turmoil between European Catholic nations and the Ottoman Empire.Caravaggio comes to life in Andrew Graham-Dixon’s biography. Graham-Dixon explores the light and dark of Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio’s short life.

    Art history moves on after Caravaggio, but Caravaggio marked a pivot point in the history of art. Painting became more than symbolic representation; i.e. it became a cinematic representation of the real world. The imperfection of humankind, both physically and spiritually became a part of the Bible’s story about life. Caravaggio’s art reflects on the violence of life, the imperfection of humankind, doubts of belief, and the true nature of human beings.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 11-19-14

    I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.

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    "Tries Too Hard To Impress"

    Having not seen the printed book itself, I'm hoping it's full of reproductions of Caravaggio's work. Being one who has studied art, I'm familiar with many of the works described herein, but I kept having to reference my personal print library or hit up Google because descriptions of the art (while helpful) are not the art itself.

    On the whole, this was merely an ok book. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either, which seems worse given my love for Caravaggio's paintings. He was an interesting guy, and the book demonstrates that at every turn. The thing is, this book is so much more than a biography, and so much less for the same reasons. The author gives us the known facts of Caravaggio's life, but it's clear that most of what's here works on assumption and extrapolation as well. We're given histories on the Church and Italy of that time, as well as depictions of cultural elements that would have defined Caravaggio in one way or another. This information, then, is applied as fuel for analysis of the given artworks, in which the author tries to glean even more information about who this artist was or wasn't. Interesting? Sure, and it's even well-written and coherent, but it's also overblown. I kept wondering how the author managed to type this book with his pinky finger at full extension. There's enthusiasm for the topic, and then there's the desire to prove you know more than you do. This book has a foot in each camp, but leans more on the latter, and that's with the narrator toning it down to tolerable levels. It might impress a newcomer to the subject matter, but it might also frighten away that same newcomer, much like listening to the overly-scholarly talk about Shakespeare. Without the need to impress (which the artwork does on its own, let's be honest here), the book could easily have been half as long and twice as engaging. Even so, it's still worth the credit if you're interested in the topic and can sift through the author's pretentiousness.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Dillon Milwaukee, WI United States 11-05-14
    Michael Dillon Milwaukee, WI United States 11-05-14 Member Since 2014

    nearlydowntown

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    "Dreadful"
    What would have made Caravaggio better?

    Apparently the author took art analysis lessons from Sister Wendy because it was floridly narrated, filled with fanciful, over blown descriptions and the book was highly fictionalized.


    What could Andrew Graham-Dixon have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Remove the transcripts of the trials. Or limit it to one. Way too tedious to listen to.


    How could the performance have been better?

    The narrator made every single word sound as if it was the most important word on earth. His elongated sh's were highly annoying. Every Italian word was pronounced to within an inch of its life.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Caravaggio?

    The transcripts from the trials and hearings.


    Any additional comments?

    I recently came from Italy where I saw a great many of these paintings. I studied art history. The author's assumptions about what the artist was thinking when he composed and painted was simply over the top. It is clear, too, that the author's own religious views play a big part in his analysis of the paintings of Caravaggio.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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