Caravaggio of Love

6.28.2010

By Noah Michelson

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

We’ve always had a soft spot for that whoring, brawling old monster, Caravaggio, and not just because of Derek Jarman’s rollicking movie of the same name. Jarman’s 1986 take on him leaned more towards the artist’s partying than his creative side, but given the presence of Nigel Terry as the man himself, and Tilda Swinton and Sean Bean as the delectable other two sides of that love triangle, we don’t mind a bit.

Now, though, exactly 400 years after his death (from sunstroke -- though the syphilis probably didn't help and some claim he was assassinated or poisoned by arsenic), not only were some fragments of his remains unearthed in Italy, but a heavyweight new biography has come out.

Andrew Graham-Dixon’s book makes a little less of the brawling and in fact defends Caravaggio’s honor a little too robustly, but he knows his stuff, and if you’re after the art and the detail, look no further. As to the man being gay, well, we’ve long accepted that he most likely slept with men, and had a great time doing so, and for sure slept with many women. Graham-Dixon’s angle on it is that Caravaggio was likely “omnisexual” and he tries to justify a lot of the bad behavior (most that is know about him is from the detailed court reports from his frequent arrests) by saying he sort of did live under the church’s ideals, in that he behaved as if it were forever Lent or carnival.
 
Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane is not yet out in the US, but it’s on Amazon.co.uk for around $27.

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Tags: Popnography
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