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Caravaggio: A Passionate Life

By Desmond Seward

The intense realism of Caravaggio’s work, and the contrast between the spirituality of his paintings and the earthiness of his life, have made him a source of fascination for centuries.

The greatest painter of the Italian Baroque, Caravaggio was also a quick-tempered, murderous swordsman. Few artists have had a police record like his, still fewer have faced a death sentence – but when he painted, he became a mystic. The models for his Virgins and his saints were prostitutes, but his pictures are deeply spiritual.

Was Caravaggio gay or bisexual, and to what extend did his sexuality influence his work? What were the causes of his self-destructive binges and endless brawling? Did the Knights of Malta murder him? Just where did he die and where was he buried? Making use of recent discoveries in Italy and elsewhere, Desmond Seward answers these questions.

His book is at the same time a gripping adventure story and a study of a moody, violent genius, playing dramatically on the contrast between wonderfully creative art and a vicious private life. It uses both the pictures and contemporary crime reports to peer into Caravaggio’s mind.

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