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Caravaggio: Painter of Miracles (Eminent Lives)by Francine Prose
Synopses & Reviews
Francine Prose's life of Caravaggio evokes the genius of this great artist through a brilliant reading of his paintings. Caravaggio defied the aesthetic conventions of his time; his use of ordinary people, realistically portrayed—street boys, prostitutes, the poor, the aged—was a profound and revolutionary innovation that left its mark on generations of artists. His insistence on painting from nature, on rendering the emotional truth of experience, whether religious or secular, makes him an artist who speaks across the centuries to our own time.
Born in 1571 near Milan, Michelangelo Merisi (da Caravaggio) moved to Rome when he was twenty-one years old. He became a brilliant and successful artist, protected by the influential Cardinal del Monte and other patrons. But he was also a man of the streets who couldn't seem to free himself from its brawls and vendettas. In 1606 he fled Rome, apparently after killing another man in a dispute. He spent his last years in exile, in Naples, Malta, and Sicily, at once celebrated for his art and tormented by his enemies. Through it all, he produced masterpieces of astonishing complexity and power. Eventually he received a pardon from the Pope, only to die, in mysterious circumstances, on the way back to Rome in 1610.
Francine Prose presents the brief but tumultuous life of one of the greatest of all painters with passion and acute sensitivity.
"The first thing to know about this life of the Italian baroque painter Caravaggio is that it is not a proper biography but rather an informal appreciation by novelist and occasional art critic Prose (Blue Angel). As with the other volumes in the Eminent Lives series, groundbreaking research is not expected. Fair enough. Yet despite her obvious love for the artist, Prose has little of substance to say about him. Once she dispatches with the basic points of the artist's life — that Caravaggio defied the fashion for mannered, pious painting with a gritty but theatrical realism that mirrored the artist's turbulent life — she resorts to the puffed-up style of a student trying to reach a term paper's required length. She stuffs her pages with redundant adjectives ('wan, exhausted, used up,' 'constant and unchanged') and finds no point too trite to repeat three times: 'You can watch an artist realizing that what he is doing is succeeding, that the paint is doing precisely what he wants it to do, that his intention and purpose are finding their way onto the canvas.' Even those with only a casual interest in the artist would be better served by Helen Langdon's 1998 biography Caravaggio: A Life, which is as accessible as it is scholarly and is now out in paperback." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
National Book Award finalist Prose renders the brief but tumultuous life of one of the greatest of all painters with passion and acute sensitivity. 8-page color insert.
About the Author
Francine Prose is the author of fourteen books of fiction, including, most recently, A Changed Man and Blue Angel, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her works of nonfiction include the national bestseller The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women and the Artists They Inspired. A recipient of numerous grants and awards, among them Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships, Prose was a Director?s Fellow at the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. She lives in New York City.
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