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Caravaggio: Painter of Miracles

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  185 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Francine Prose's life of Caravaggio evokes the genius of this great artist through a brilliant reading of his paintings. Caravaggio defied the aesthetic conventions of his time; his 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. His insist ...more
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published October 4th 2005 by Eminent Lives
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Ms.pegasus
Aug 21, 2014 Ms.pegasus rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in art history
Recommended to Ms.pegasus by: review of GR friend Rick
Overflowing in both talent and self-regard, Caravaggio (1571-1610) remains an enigma. He left behind no diaries or letters to convey his thoughts. Instead, contemporaries chose to chronicle his quarrels, profligate drinking and gambling, violent altercations and hurried escapes from vengeful factions.

This book is a personalized view of the artist's works. While Caravaggio was a highly successful painter of the religious subjects in demand at the time, he assumes a modern cast. His models were l
...more
Erez Davidi
I have recently visited Galleria Borghese where a few of Caravaggio's paintings are on display. I thoroughly enjoyed them; however, I wanted to gain some deeper insights into his paintings, so I purchased this book.

Francine Prose's slim introduction to Caravaggio is, by and large, unsatisfying. Caravaggio's life is mostly unknown, and even the parts that are known are questionable. Naturally, I wasn't expecting a comprehensive account of his life. However, to my disappointment, too many pages of
...more
Rick
Part of the Harper Collins Eminent Lives series of short biographies that matches contemporary writers with specific subjects, Caravaggio is an informative and engaging read, presenting the art and life of the controversial painter who died at 39 but lived a tragically full life, creating masterpieces and sparking conflicts, often violent, with equal frequency.

Caravaggio painted from life, drafting friends, neighbors, local peasants and prostitutes, male and female, to be his models. His religio
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Joseph
The strength of this account of Caravaggio’s life lies in the link between his personal history, the historical epoch within which he lived, and of course, his painting. Rather than letting his intellect get in the way of his feelings, Caravaggio “painted” his emotions directly to the canvass. The result is a painting style that has elicited very divergent reactions among critics, running the gamut from creative genius with an odd sense of subtleness to overdone coarse vulgarity. Ironically, it ...more
Ebennettclark
excellently written, just wish I had the paintings in front of me for context.
Wendy
Francine Prose provides the reader with an excellent essay on the life and works of Michangelo Merisi, da Caravaggio. She describes the violence in two works -- The Flagelaation of Christ and the Crucifixation of Saint Peter as both depicting the moment of suffering before the real suffering has begun.

Quick notes about the book:

1. Darkness
2. Lack of a discernible background
3. Theatrical chiaroscuro
4. Contemporary setting

Depicted the "ordinariness of a miracle" by depicting human beings who face
...more
Ben
As a crash course on the life of a painter, it's hard to imagine one more entertaining and informative than this. Of course, it helps that Caravaggio had one of the most sensational lives of any major artist. When he wasn't defying the aesthetic conventions of his time in furious creative outbursts, he was swaggering around Rome with a sword on his hip, threatening, cursing, and assaulting the populace. The majority of the book discusses his art, punctuated by key biographical episodes, which, t ...more
Josh
Given that most of the events of Caravaggio's life have been obscured by history and the impulse to sensationalize a life already riddled with strife, the book can only go so far as a biography. It records the sequence of his works and takes no libertes with unverifiable information. I wanted to read about him because he was brilliant, rumored to have had same-sex relationships, and had apparently committed a murder as the result of having so little control over his temper. A dynamic character a ...more
Patrick
I knew a few things about Caravaggio before I read this short bio. I knew he'd been in trouble for throwing a plate of artichokes at a waiter. I knew he'd murdered a man over a tennis match bet. And I'd been to see The Taking of Christ at the National Gallery in Dublin. That was just enough to whet my appetite.
Francine Prose Brief Lives bio was just what I was looking for - she compresses a lot of information about Caravaggio and the times he lived in in to an elegant, concise book, that never f
...more
Jessica Claycomb
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Desiree Wood
I have admired Caravaggio's art for quite awhile. I think, like everyone else, I knew some scant basics about his tumultuous life and his troubles with the law. This book is a great place to start for someone who, like me, knows the bare bones and is interested in becoming more knowledgeable. This book is not long and is rather concise, which I like. I did at times wonder about how the author drew some of her conclusions. Not that I doubted her, just that I would have liked a little more informa ...more
Lindsey
Caravaggio has been one of my favorite painters since Michelle first introduced me to his work when I visited her in Rome back in college. She took me to Naples to see an impressive Caravaggio exhibit, and we also hunted for all his chapel paintings in Roman churches. I was hooked, but I hadn't thought about him much in the last few years; then John gave me this brief biography (which includes several beautiful color images), and I was fascinated all over again. I loved how Prose jumped around r ...more
Jennifer
This was a great book, very well written. I particularly enjoyed Prose's blatant recognition of how little we know about Caravaggio's life and her explanations and passionate dissection of the pieces. I would highly suggest this book to anyone interested in Caravaggio or art history in general. The length (150 pages) makes it easily approachable and it is a great overview of the artist.

One suggestion I have to readers though is to have a computer or a book of Caravaggio's paintings nearby as you
...more
Anmiryam
Prose's brief life is indeed brief and more focused on the art than Caravaggio's life. A blessing really, since I'd much rather read her luminous descriptions of these brilliant paintings and how they affect the viewer than try to keep track of the many fancifully named Cardinals and orders Caravaggio worked for, or which set of brawlers he may, or may not have been running from at any point in time. If you aren't very familiar with Caravaggio's work, best keep a computer at hand as many of the ...more
patience
Visual descriptions of landscapes and people are often difficult for me to follow but I feel the author did a good job of simply describing the paintings. There's not much new here for me--I knew most of the details. I do think I've underestimated how much Caravaggio's style differed from his contemporaries and his direct predecessors--his work must have been pretty shocking to some.
I became interested in Caravaggio after visiting Italy last year; seeing his painting of Saint Ursula in Naples wa
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Adam Jacobson
An enjoyable light introduction to Caravaggio.
Being a short essay, it faces two structural challenges. First, as Prose acknowledges, we know very little about the man. So, much of what she writes is interesting speculation but one keeps asking "really, what happened? Also, the limited publishing format means that of the many paintings she describes, you only see a few in the book. Which makes it really only meaningful if one has another larger book at hand or the time to visit lots of churches i
...more
Miles
A little expensive for what you get, in my opinion. I was hoping for a more in-depth analysis of the works and how they fit into the timeline, but this is essentially a long essay about Caravaggio's life that uses the various works as milestones. Explanations of the works are present but seldom run longer than a page and a half.

It was still very interesting for those with an amateur interest in art. Takes less than a day to read.
JodiP
This is part of a series of brief biographies of famous people. Prose is also a fiction writer, so I look forward to exploring her other works. This was well-done: the perfect blend of art criticism and biography. I ended up getting another book to have larger pictures and more of the paintings. My biggest wish was that the publishers had been able to include all the works within this small volume.
Dottie
Interesting but not quite as outstanding as I was expecting -- given this was Francine Prose and given the subject -- it was just okay -- I liked it but I thinkI'd look beyond this for background before tackling it if I could undo what's been done. Even CR discussion couldn't raise the bar on this one much which is unusual.
Julie Whelan
This slender volume was a good introduction to Caravaggio's extraordinarily colorful life (he was constantly in fights, was a murder, joined the knights of malta, etc.). Reading it made me want to learn more about him and helped me appreciate his paintings more.
Samantha
I read this book on the recommendation of the Columbus Museum of Art's book club. It was not my favorite historical art biography, but it was concise and I got the gist of Caravaggio's tumultuous life.
Rich
What a great book. Francine Prose tells the story of Caravaggio with truth and wit. He's not exactly the sort of guy you'd invite to a dinner party but he was THE rock star of his time and lived that way...
Jen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carol
Too scholarly, and therefore too boring for me. It said what I needed to know in the first few chapters. More like a text book reading.
Marlene
Informative but not as juicy as I had hoped. I would like more about Caravaggio.Any suggestions on books about him would be great.
Dgoll
This is an excellent bio of Caravaggio. I read it along with The Lost Painting and highly recommend both.
Dianne Lange
Brilliant interpretation of paintings and insight into the artist's tumultuous life and tragic end.
Daniel
Been to Italy and seen his pictures
Erin
Feb 28, 2008 Erin marked it as to-read
CARAVAGGIO! LOVE LOVE!
Mike Scalisi
Mike Scalisi marked it as to-read
Dec 20, 2014
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Francine Prose (born in 1947 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American novelist. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1968, and received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1991. She has sat on the board of judges for the PEN/Newman's Own Award, and her novel Blue Angel, a satire about sexual harassment on college campuses, was a finalist for the National Book Award. She is now teaching at Bard College.

For
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