Caravaggio by Helen Langdon
A Life

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A powerful and illuminating biography-the first in English in two generations-of one of the most popular painters of all time.

Of all the great Italian painters, the seventeenth-century master Caravaggio speaks most clearly and powerfully to our time. His early paintings of cardsharps, musicians, and street vendors convey his fascination with the Roman demimonde; his stark and brilliant religious paintings convey the world of the poor and the outcast and the religious experience of the individual with a directness our age can recognize.

Caravaggio lived hard and died young, having fled Rome for Sicily, apparently after murdering another man in a dispute; his life is one of the most colorful of any artist's. In this vivid and beautifully written biography, Helen Langdon tells the story of the great painter's life and times in a way that leaves the reader with a renewed appreciation of his art.

Caravaggio painted a fairly small number of works, many of them for settings in Rome, Naples, and Sicily, where they remain today; and he painted directly from human models. So the story of his life and times reveals Italian society of the period-involving powerful patrons, sybaritic cardinals, and saints, as well as street boys, prostitutes, and rivalrous painters.

Langdon has spent a lifetime studying Caravaggio; this biography, the first in English in two generations, shows us Caravaggio's genius with the striking clarity of his own paintings.


About Helen Langdon

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Published February 17, 1999 by Random House UK. 400 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Arts & Photography, History. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Caravaggio

Kirkus Reviews

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“He became vain and proud, increasingly involved in street violence, and so famed for his belligerence that news of it circulated through Europe.” He was nothing if not a man of his times, and in Rome, in the 17th century, toughs walked the streets with daggers and swords;

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The Guardian

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Art historians may argue that Baroque art was driven by patronage, and that Caravaggio's patrons were men of piety, powerful clerics - but it's hard to talk away the eroticism of a painting like this.

Jan 06 2001 | Read Full Review of Caravaggio: A Life

Publishers Weekly

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At once more scholarly and less polemical than Desmond Seward's 1998 Caravaggio: A Passionate Life, Langdon's study of the Renaissance painter conveys a picture of Michelangelo da Caravaggio (1573-1610) as an artist amid rivals and intrigues without losing sight of his work and its significance.

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The Wall Street Journal

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Caravaggio was the greatest pictorial dramatist of his age—and is the most popular of ours.

Sep 10 2011 | Read Full Review of Caravaggio: A Life

The Independent

We live in an age which – unlike Caravaggio's – requires transgression of its artists.

Jul 09 2010 | Read Full Review of Caravaggio: A Life

Open Letters Monthly

And the story of what kind of bastard he was – the street-brawls, the prostitutes of both genders, the arrests, the flights from the law, the hair-trigger temper and omnipresent brutality – has been told in great detail a great many times – a redundancy fully matching the irrelevance.

Oct 09 2011 | Read Full Review of Caravaggio: A Life

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