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Andrew Graham-Dixon has twice won the Hawthornden Prize for writing about art and has made two six-part BBC television series, A History of British Art and Renaissance. He is now at work on a major new biography of Caravaggio.


Caravaggio has rarely been seen in such depth and such relief as in this marvellous biography. Andrew Graham-Dixon reads Caravaggio's paintings with the habits and assumptions, thoughts and fears of his contemporaries so that we see and feel the paintings more acutely and intensely than before. The man and his work emerge enriched and enlivened -- Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum
Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane gave me immense pleasure and provided constant delight. It is a thrilling lesson in the art of seeing, a sensual exploration of the shadows of Caravaggio's sometimes violent but always Christian world, a detective story with a highly satisfying ending. Andrew Graham-Dixon's ability to have a reader see a painting through written language is a rare and precious gift. The book's rigour and integrity are obvious. I trusted every word and was sorry to turn the final page -- Peter Carey

The life of Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio (1571-1610), writes British art critic Graham-Dixon in this masterful biography, was like his art: "a series of lightning flashes in the darkest of nights." Graham-Dixon's briskly and elegantly composed study thoroughly contextualizing the artist's early life in the town of Caravaggio and in Milan, a city dominated by Archbishop Carlo Borromeo, whose fearsome doctrine of mass repentance and the selective role of visual spectacle influenced Caravaggio. By the time the artist left Milan for Rome, he had decided to become an artist. The author then chronicles Caravaggio's artistic success in Rome, where, at the age of 24, he found patronage by Cardinal del Monte. He created many masterpieces there, but the rejection of The Death of the Virgin by its ecclesiastical commissioners, the author argues, may have prompted Caravaggio to commit murder. He fled to Naples, then to Malta; he died at age 38, after a troubled and "disordered" life. That Graham-Dixon (Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel) took a decade to research and write this insightful and fascinating book shows in the depth of its research, the skillfulness of its historical and artistic analysis, and the deft fluidity with which it is expressed. This is a rare tour-de-force. 40 pages of color illus.; 4 maps. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

New publications (e.g., Michael Fried's The Moment of Caravaggio and John T. Spike's Caravaggio) continue to appear in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the death of Caravaggio. This one takes a more biographical than art historical approach to the controversial artist. Art critic and BBC television art series presenter Graham-Dixon (Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel) firmly places Caravaggio in his milieu right from the beginning of his life, discussing the important connection between his family and the family of one of the heroes of the Battle of Lepanto, which took place eight days after Caravaggio's birth. Further reading suggestions (English and Italian), an index, endnotes, and maps are included. VERDICT Recommended for special collections, art faculty and students, and interested general readers. (Final images not seen.)-Nancy J. Mactague, Aurora Univ. Lib., IL (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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