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Caravaggio: Painter of Miracles (Eminent Lives) Hardcover – 5 Mar 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress (5 Mar. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007230664
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007230662
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 1.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,808,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘Racy, intensely imagined and highly readable…Prose brings to Caravaggio a fresh and unflinching eye.’ New York Times Book Review

‘Combines astute examination of his work with just a plain good yarn about a street tough who painted transcendent pictures.’ Entertainment Weekly

‘A fine biography – and a study of why revolutionary art can be reviled in its own time and revered in another.’ Kirkus Reviews

From the Back Cover

Francine Prose's life of Michelangelo Merisi (da Caravaggio) evokes the genius of this incomparable artist through a brilliant reading of his paintings. Caravaggio's 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. Revered and successful, Caravaggio was protected by powerful patrons, yet he was also a man of the street who couldn't free himself from its brawls and vendettas. In Caravaggio, bestselling author Francine Prose presents the brief but tumultuous life of one of the greatest of all painters with passion and acute sensitivity. " --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is one of several volumes in the HarperCollins Eminent Lives series. Each offers a concise rather than comprehensive, much less definitive biography. However, just as Al Hirschfeld's illustrations of various celebrities capture their defining physical characteristics, the authors of books in this series focus on the defining influences and developments during the lives and careers of their respective subjects. In this instance, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610). Because I think so highly of this volume, I think it would be most helpful to others who have not as yet read it to provide a few brief excerpts. Hopefully this will encourage them to obtain a copy.

According to Francine Prose, "Caravaggio speaks to us directly, without any need of translation from a distant century or a foreign culture. His voice is eloquent and strong, resonant with emotion. We feel we understand him, though we can never paraphrase what we intuit he is saying....Yet only lately, since we have learned to accept the idea of art without conventional beauty, art that is rough and strange and disturbing, can we tolerate art that is this [in italics] honest [end italics] about the nature of suffering and divinity, about the way in which a painting is created, about human nature, and the nature of art itself."

How modern he now seems centuries later. Consider these remarks: "The life of Caravaggio is the closest thing we have to the myth of the sinner-saint, the street tough, the martyr, the killer, the genius -- the myth that, in these jaded and secular times, we are almost ashamed to admit that we still long for, and need.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of several volumes in the HarperCollins Eminent Lives series. Each offers a concise rather than comprehensive, much less definitive biography. However, just as Al Hirschfeld's illustrations of various celebrities capture their defining physical characteristics, the authors of books in this series focus on the defining influences and developments during the lives and careers of their respective subjects. In this instance, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610). Because I think so highly of this volume, I think it would be most helpful to others who have not as yet read it to provide a few brief excerpts. Hopefully this will encourage them to obtain a copy.
According to Francine Prose, "Caravaggio speaks to us directly, without any need of translation from a distant century or a foreign culture. His voice is eloquent and strong, resonant with emotion. We feel we understand him, though we can never paraphrase what we intuit he is saying....Yet only lately, since we have learned to accept the idea of art without conventional beauty, art that is rough and strange and disturbing, can we tolerate art that is this [in italics] honest [end italics] about the nature of suffering and divinity, about the way in which a painting is created, about human nature, and the nature of art itself."
How modern he now seems centuries later. Consider these remarks: "The life of Caravaggio is the closest thing we have to the myth of the sinner-saint, the street tough, the martyr, the killer, the genius -- the myth that, in these jaded and secular times, we are almost ashamed to admit that we still long for, and need.
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Format: Paperback
Some of the most astonishing paintings ever produced came from the brush of Michelangelo Merisi, who later become known as Caravaggio, after the town where he was born in 1571. He had a fairly good education, but as soon as he settled upon becoming a painter it was obvious that he had found his metier. Not for him idealised versions of beauty, he painted what he saw, and it was a revelation. No one before him had used chiascuro (roughly meaning shadows, darkness) to frame their work, though later painters often tried to make their works Caravaggioesque, something that he found deeply objectionable especially as his fame grew.

He found powerful patrons and earned good money, but there was another side to him. Caravaggio was a street brawler, he liked to fight, with or without his sword, and this sometimes got him into trouble. It is often difficult to reconcile his genius as an artist, with other aspects of his psychological make-up. The streets were ruled by men. Women did not venture far without fathers or other protectors but there were boys, a resort he used in common with many others, as well as prostitutes. Today he is often thought of as a Gay icon, but his sexuality was more fluid, according to Francine Prose, and other commentators.

What moves me about his work is its complete absence of pretence. Its realism about the quality of life (often very poor), and the compassion he brings to some of the greatest works of art in the canon. Take a painting such as The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew, the saint caught in the moment just before his death as his killer grasps his wrist, prior to plunging a wicked looking steel rapier into his body.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars 21 reviews
42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars something important is missing 5 Oct. 2005
By Michael L. Landau - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a modest little biographical sketch of the turbulent life of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. The details of his life are too sketchy to justify a really thorough biography. Granted. My problem with Prose's book is that too little attention is given to the paintings. There are a few paintings reproduced in small color plates, but even these are not analyzed properly. Big fans of Caravaggio will be disappointed to find that 'Supper at Emmaus' for example is missing entirely. Also missing is an annotated index of the artist's works. Equally reprehensible is the mention in the text of paintings that are not represented in the plates at all. An artist's legacy is not his life, but his work, and it is his work that should have received more attention in this volume.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Concise and Precise Brief Study of Caravaggio 28 Jan. 2006
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The series of books Eminent Lives being produced by General Editor James Atlas for Atlas Books, a division of Harper Collins is a true project that fills a vital need in the paucity of the arts education in this country at present. Coupling excellent writers with biographies of great people is long overdue and after reading Francine Prose's very fine but succinct evaluation of the life of painter Caravaggio the reader will want to collect all of the volumes of this educational and enlightening series.

Though there are many huge tomes readily available on the art and the wild life of Michelangelo Merisi (da Caravaggio) that offer a much more complete view of the great artist's artist output and more detailed accounts of his sexual life and his criminal life involving the church and the state throughout Italy during his relatively brief life (1571 - 1610). Francine Prose approaches her subject more as a novelist than as reportage. She covers the important aspects of Caravaggio's influences, his beginnings, his particular gifts of painting that incorporated models form the street to depict religious icons, his miraculous understanding and reproduction of light and shadow, and his propensity to follow his hedonistic needs in lieu of being faithful to his career.

This is a physically small volume (perfect for tucking into the jacket pocket or purse for reading away from home) and therein lays its main drawback: the few reproductions of paintings that serve to underline Prose's commentary are too small to satisfy the art lover. But for those images there are many monographs surveys available that may serve as adjuncts to this concise Eminent Life. Recommended. Grady Harp, January 06
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Portrait of the Artist 27 Jan. 2006
By David A. Wend - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I have had a long interest in Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and over the years have had the pleasure of seeing the retrospective held at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in the late 1980's and seeing his paintings in Rome and Naples. I heard of Francine Prose's book in a review and was drawn to read it. I do not have any other books solely devoted to Caravaggio but have several on his time period.

First, the book is a small format which may be surprising but for me was not a huge drawback. The only problem with the size of the book is that the illustrations are smaller than some people may like. I found Ms. Prose's text to be the focus of this book, not the illustrations. I liked her writing and overall presentation. I did not find her adjectives redundant and the complaining quotations by other reviews I think are out of context. For me, Ms. Prose presents the life and times of Caravaggio with as full a presentation that I wanted, delving into what it was like to be a painter in his times and giving us as much detail as there is about her subject. I thought she created excellent work pictures of Caravaggio's paintings. The only problem is that many are not reproduced in her book so I had to go to other sources. However, I think that if one is interested in Caravaggio you will want to read Ms. Prose's book and find the missing paintings elsewhere. This book may not be an exhaustive study of Caravaggio but it is an excellent introduction to the painter with many thought provoking observations.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Waste of Good Prose 14 Jan. 2006
By Roger M. Olien - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Francine Prose's charming brief introduction to the life and art of Caravaggio simply doesn't belong in the Eminent Lives series--not because he was unworthy. Rather, the spartan production standards of the series precluded including enough of his art to give a reader even a clue as to what the author was describing. For example, her descriptions and analyses of "The Fortune Teller" and "The Card Sharps" were really quite good, but without the paints near at hand, most readers will find it difficult to appreciate them. Obviously, anyone familiar with his art would hardly buy an introduction to it; lacking appropriate illustration, the volume is unlikely to add to the ranks of Caravaggio's admirers.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A brief life with no new insights 8 Dec. 2006
By David Robinson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Francine Prose writes well and with a light ironic touch but this slim volume adds little to what we already know about Caravaggio. At a little over 100 pages and with only a handful of color illustrations the book amounts to little more than an extended essay of Ms. Prose's reactions to Caravaggio's major works. There are very many better books showing the paintings and Prose doesn't go into the camera obscura technique that Caravaggio undoubtedly used, giving his paintings an almost photo-realistic representation of his subjects.

That Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was a brawler with a passion for picking fights worthy of "Fight Club" who combined erratic behavior with some sublime paintings is hardly an insight. A much better treatment of the life and psychology of the artist appears in Peter Robb's 1998 "M: The Man who Became Caravaggio" which curiously is unreferenced by Prose.

Although Prose notes that Caravaggio broke away from the stylized poses and unearthly lighting of the mannerists, I don't think she clearly explains his genius.
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