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Customer Review

on 7 June 2014
Seward’s book is beautifully written, sentences and paragraphs melt smoothly one into the other with never the slightest hesitation, nothing to take the reader’s mind off a story so fully researched. Seward gives us not only the facts, but he puts them into context: we learn what Rome was really like during the end of the 1500s and early 1600s, the density, the crime, down to the odors. We learn how people greatest each other, what they wore, their mind sets, why they could never allow themselves a moment of free thought concerning even the existence of God. The books is a sans faute except for the essential, Caravaggio’s sexuality. Seward doesn’t seem to know that Renaissance man took his pleasure where he found it, and as girls were hidden away in Brinks-like security, they found it among themselves. They all did, from the great Lorenzo Il Magnifico down to the most vile of them all, Pope Alexander VI and his gutter-minded son Cesare Borgia. Seward wants us to believe that Caravaggio was perhaps bisexual in a passing fashion as a mindless lad, something he grew out of. The truth, as Seward should know, is that concepts like homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality didn’t even come into existence until 300 years later. It was an epoch strange to us because today we really do define ourselves as being one of the three. Back then one just didn’t think in those terms. If a man was randy in ancient Rome and a slave boy was handy, it was he the recipient of the man’s lust. During the Renaissance too one took what was available. Rare were those, like Michelangelo and da Vinci, who engaged exclusively in male-male relations, just as in ancient Rome Trajan and Hadrian were themselves rarities, men who really may have died virgin--in today’s sexual parlance concerning those who never know a woman. Those of you who have seen Caravaggio’s The Musicians know this: in close-ups two of the boys are shown in the throes of orgasm, their eyes glazed over, the lips barely parted, the tongue, in near-erection, just visible. This is homoerotic art at its most sublime. A disoriented lad going through passing bisexuality doesn’t paint something like that. Caravaggio had two (nearly) life-long lovers, Minniti and Cecco. There was no one under their beds to verify the fact for Mr. Seward, but this was the way of the world during the Italian Renaissance. Other than that, I’m giving Seward five stars because I personally find his Caravaggio at least as good as Graham-Dixon’s much-vaunted (and deservedly so) Caravaggio. My own books can be found on Amazon under Michael Hone.
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