M: The Man Who Became Caravaggio

Peter Robb, Author Metropolitan Books $30 (570p) ISBN 978-0-8050-6356-1
Recognized now as a peer of 17th-century masters Rembrandt and Vermeer, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) painted notoriously provocative religious and classical tableaux, yet left few traces (""no letters, no table talk, no notebook or treatise"") of his life beyond his art. Australian -born Robb, whose ex-pat tour-de-force Midnight in Sicily: On Art, Food, History, Travel, & La Cosa Nostra took readers through that fascinating island, has created an idiosyncratic but dazzling biography of Caravaggio by exploiting almost every extant fragment, including a handful of sightings by friends and enemies, and the scanty Italian police files. More audaciously, Robb spreads through the life many pages on every known canvas, leaving appropriately theatrical description in his wake. Robb's Caravaggio--or ""M,"" as he insists on calling the multimonikered and aliased painter--was a violent man of ""hairtrigger touchiness,"" who fueled the passionate intensity of his painting with his professional and emotional frustrations, managing to register raw life in a religious culture that demanded, according to Robb, vapid holiness. Bisexual, he painted and loved pubescent boys, and patronized the female prostitutes he used as models. To great effect, Robb inserts reflections by the painter's contemporaries within his own sentences, offsetting them with italics rather than quotation marks: ""M's repeated and humiliating requests for small advances from Masetti confirmed the need. That wasn't his style and he reddens whenever he sees me."" He studs his own descriptions with odd words, obscenities and anachronistic, out-of-place contemporary references (""... like Ronald Reagan playing the cowboy""). Yet it all works--Robb's flawed, melodramatic, swollen biography is crammed with more about the dark, driven Caravaggio than any previous life. Just as Caravaggio took art to the edge, Robb takes biography there. 16 pages of illus., 8 in color, not seen by PW. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Show other formats
FORMATS
Paperback - 592 pages - 978-0-312-27474-0
Paperback - 567 pages - 978-1-4088-1989-0
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.