Painter of Miracles
By Francine Prose
(HarperCollins Publishers, Hardcover, 9780060575601, 149pp.)
Publication Date: October 2005
List Price: $21.95*
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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 insistence on painting from nature, on rendering the emotional truth of experience, whether religious or secular, makes him an artist who speaks across the centuries to our own time.
Born in 1571 near Milan, Michelangelo Merisi (da Caravaggio) moved to Rome when he was twenty-one years old. He became a brilliant and successful artist, protected by the influential Cardinal del Monte and other patrons. But he was also a man of the streets who couldn't seem to free himself from its brawls and vendettas. In 1606 he fled Rome, apparently after killing another man in a dispute. He spent his last years in exile, in Naples, Malta, and Sicily, at once celebrated for his art and tormented by his enemies. Through it all, he produced masterpieces of astonishing complexity and power. Eventually he received a pardon from the Pope, only to die, in mysterious circumstances, on the way back to Rome in 1610.
Francine Prose presents the brief but tumultuous life of one of the greatest of all painters with passion and acute sensitivity.
“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.”
“Elegant . . . [Prose] fills out the intrigue of Caravaggio’s own life and writes terrifically about the paintings.”
“Tautly written and insightful.”
“In this engaging and informative short biography . . . Prose vividly brings [Caravaggio’s] paintings to life.”
-Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Matching gorgeous prose to gorgeous artworks, Prose responds to each image as a moment of theatrical revelation, sensual or spiritual.”
-Boston Sunday Globe
“Everything a casual reader needs to know about flamboyant Baroque artist Caravaggio... Makes you want to go to the museum.”
-U.S. News & World Report
“Prose’s concentrated interpretation... clearly and descriptively explicates the pioneering painter’s unique perception of the miraculous in everyday life.”
“Fine biography--and a study of why revolutionary art can be reviled in its own time and revered in another.”