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The worlds of Milan, Rome and Naples through which Caravaggio moved, and which Andrew Graham-Dixon describes brilliantly in this book, are those of cardinals and whores, prayer and violence.

Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane

The patrons of the church competed to have the leading artists of the day in their households, and the artists jostled for their favour. On the streets surrounding the churches and palaces, brawls and swordfights were regular occurrences.

Andrew Graham-Dixon: Caravaggio, Mad Marketing Genius

In one such fight, Caravaggio, a particularly violent man, killed Ranuccio Tomassoni, a pimp, and fled afterwards to Naples and then Malta, home to the Knights of St John, where he escaped from prison following his conviction for another vicious assault. Fleeing once more he fell victim himself to a crippling vendetta attack.

Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane

Shortly afterwards, he died while returning to Rome to seek a papal pardon for his crimes. He was thirty-eight years old. In the course of this desperate life Caravaggio created the most dramatic paintings of his age, using ordinary men and women — often prostitutes and the very poor — to model for his depictions of classic religious scenes.

Andrew Graham-Dixon's exceptionally illuminating readings of Caravaggio'spictures, which are the heart of the book, show very clearly how he created their drama, immediacy and humanity, and how completely he departed from the conventions of his time. For more than twenty-five years, Andrew Graham Dixon has published a weekly column on art, first in the Independent and more recently, the Sunday Telegraph. He has written a number of acclaimed books, including A History of British Art and Renaissance, and is twice winner of the Hawthornden Prize, Britain's top prize for writing about art.

He is one of the leading figures in broadcasting in the UK, having presented seven major television series on art for the BBC. Caravaggio has rarely been seen in such depth and such relief as in this marvellous biography.

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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. 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.


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The book's rigour and integrity are obvious. I trusted every word and was sorry to turn the final page -- Peter Carey. Convert currency.

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