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M : The Man Who Became Caravaggio

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A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

As vividly and unflinchingly presented herein with "blood and bone and sinew" (Times Literary Supplement) by Peter Robb, Caravaggio's wild and tempestuous life was a provocation to a culture in a state of siege. The end of the sixteenth century was marked by the Inquisition and Counter-Reformation, a background of ideological war against which, despite all odds, brilliant feats of art and science were achieved. No artist captured the dark, violent spirit of the time better than Caravaggio, variously known as Marisi, Moriggia, Merigi, and sometimes, simply M. As art critic Robert Hughes has said, "There was art before him and art after him, and they were not the same." Robb's masterful biography "re-creates the mirror Cravaggio held up to nature," as Hilary Spurling wrote in The New York Times Book Review, "with singular delicacy as well as passion and panache."

570 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1998

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About the author

Peter Robb

18 books37 followers
Born 1946. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Robb

Librarian Note:
There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

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5 stars
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307 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 96 reviews
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,535 followers
April 15, 2017
Peter Robb's followup to his masterful Midnight in Sicily is this controversial but amazing biography of Caravaggio, entitled M because the artist was actually known by many names over the span of his short life that all started with the letter "M". I found this book to be captivating cover to cover. Some critics have attacked Robb as not being a proper art critic and taking a bit of the spirituality out of M's work by naming works without the religious adornments (Matthew's calling rather than The Calling of St Matthew, for example), but this did not bother me in the least because Robb did make me see Caravaggio from a standpoint which was entirely new to me. I have seen many of Caravaggio's paintings in expositions and hanging in state and always appreciated his masterful chiaroscuro effects, but I had not picked up on the radical 3-dimensionality that M brought to 16/ 17th C painting nor the humanity he was imparting to the figures he was portraying. I found Robb's detailed descriptions of the major extant paintings all full of brilliant insight and the contextualizing of them into what is known of M's life through police reports and letters and so forth is enriching. I did regret not having more color plates to avoid having to run to Google for examining the works more closely, but perhaps it was a question of rights or budget for the printing, who knows. I don't feel it takes away from the core text or the fresh perspective on this incredibly revolutionary and influential painter.
It was also chilling to read about the Counter-Reformation and the suppression of freedom of speech and expression. Chilling reminder of tendencies that unfortunately are still real 400+ years later. Clement VIII and Pius V were very repressive popes and the Cardinals come off as hedonistic power hungry hypocrites. Crazy times. I had no idea of the vying for influence on the Papacy between the proFrench and proSpanish parties - very interesting especially in how it impacted Caravaggio despite his being totally apolitical.
I highly recommend this book for lovers of art and history and, of course, Caravaggio fans.
Profile Image for George Ilsley.
Author 12 books229 followers
May 28, 2023
This is the second book about Caravaggio I've read in recent weeks and might have enjoyed this one more than I did if I had read it first (the other book is Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane).

There are some problems here with editing. Colloquial Australian expressions are used instead of standard english ("yakka" for example). Also "perv" as a verb is deployed rather too freely, to describe someone who might enjoy a particular painting ("perving" on it).

This very casual use of language I found unappealing in this context (even when I could figure out the intended meaning; does regional Aussie slang enhance our appreciation of an Italian artist who died 500 years ago?).

Another problem in this edition is poor production values. Some of the images are four to a page, with all four descriptions at the bottom; however, in the book I had, most of the bottom descriptions were cut off. Ooops. Doubly annoying since there were so few illustrations included. Of those few too many remained mysterious.
Profile Image for Dena.
38 reviews28 followers
January 22, 2011
I studied art history at the University of MN and first got to know Caravaggio in a 16th/17th century Italian painting class. That this seminal artist was only rediscovered centuries after his mysterious death is fascinating on it's own, but to read the details of his short and unusual life makes his story that much more compelling.

I read this in the weeks before a trip to Rome and carried it with me, using it as my Roman guide book; searching out infamous piazzas, campos, and dark corners of churches far from the tourist routes. Dropping a few coins in a light box in a dark chapel to gain 30 seconds of 20 watt illumination on a painting that influenced every painter to come after him was probably one of the most breathtaking moments of my life.

June 2010: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06...

And he keeps making news: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europ...
Profile Image for lilias.
352 reviews12 followers
January 11, 2008
Apparently Peter Robb loves Caravaggio's work even more than I do, and I have yet to meet anyone who likes his work at all; so it was a pleasure to read a biography that was told with such enthusiasm about this artist that I adore. Actually, this book was a little overwhelming for me. I could only read a few pages at a time because there was so much information, and it was all information that I wanted to learn.

Something else added to my slow going. I did not like Robb's writing. I got very frustrated and even emotional, and I just wanted to grab Robb's big head (he does have a big head. He looks like Kelsey Grammer) and tell him to stop using "M'd'v" and to use the words "M would have" instead. Not to mention the use of the word "ditto" everywhere; I felt like I was reading the script for Ghost. There were a few typos, too, and the book could have been 1/3 shorter, but now I'm just nagging.

Robb pieces together M's life from court documents and letters, and gives the reader a rich and complex story with 16th & 17th century Southern Italy as the backdrop. I love the lovely and offensive and lewd outlaw genius of an artist now even more than I did standing around in those museums, and for that I am grateful for this book.
Profile Image for Roman Clodia.
2,427 reviews2,498 followers
April 18, 2018
This idiosyncratic life of Caravaggio was controversial when it came out in 1998 with Brian Sewell spitting that it only deserved to be pulped... It is irritating in parts, from Robb's wayward decision to re-name Michelangelo Merisi just 'M', to his flaunting of critical traditions by creating his own (annoying) referencing system and re-naming Caravaggio's paintings so that 'The Card Sharps' becomes Cheats and 'Amor Victorious' Love Winning. It feels unnecessarily iconoclastic for the sake of flaunting his rebellion against the art world establishment.

With that out of the way, though, this an energetic read: Robb does a good job of sketching in the historical background, especially of the Counter-Reformation, against which 'M' kicks, and it's fun to meet Galileo, Giordano Bruno, Beatrice Cenci and others as parts of 'M's' story. Robb is also good at directing us to striking points in the paintings - I'm not a good 'reader' of visual culture so appreciated this aspect of the book. It's a shame that the book itself only reproduces a few paintings so do read this with a tablet handy to Google the relevant works.

I did question, however, Robb's essentially autobiographical reading of 'M's' art - it's as if each painting is a Freudian dream which Robb psychoanalyses to reveal something of 'M's' true self. Has art criticism bypassed Barthes and Foucault et al.? Does the 'death of the author' have no purchase in the world of art writing/biography? Does the art always have to be a direct and linear form of autobiography?

Robb's writing is not always the most elegant and there is slang ('cops' for the C17th Roman guardians of the law) and what I assume are Aussie terms. Nevertheless, this gives a vivid picture of 'M' in his world - I don't know how reliable and accurate it might be but it is entertaining and certainly informed me of some of the ways in which we can read the paintings.
Profile Image for Andrea Haverland.
Author 2 books6 followers
December 7, 2008
This is a crime mystery first and foremost - why Caravaggio was murdered on a beach somewhere north of Rome and south of Tuscany. Not for art history lightweights, but the best book I've ever read. Woven into a ruthlessly researched historical tale of the late 1500s-early 1600s, illustrated with color prints which elicit gasps even in miniature, the genius of the much-maligned Caravaggio is laid bare: misunderstood, violent, unwilling to bend for Popes or kings. His sensuous and clairvoyant use of light, the exposition of gritty street people to depict biblical allegory was not only daring,but cost him his life. Michelangelo's putti are just big yawns after Merisi ...one of his many, many names.
There was art before Caravaggio, and there was art after - and it was never the same. Don't believe me? Read this and find out. It bleeds and breathes with the guts of the counter-reformation tortures - including Bruno Giordano, Galileo, and the gifted remainders in a time populated with the modern fear of Fahrenheit 415, as in burning people - forbidden books were relegated to the infamous "Index". This book was bravely written and can opnly be read by the brave.
32 reviews5 followers
September 20, 2012
Love Caravaggio. Hate Peter Robb. Robb is the written equivalent of a speaker in love with the sound of his own voice. Why use six words when three hundred and fourteen will do? And why actually show the painting you're discussing when you can turn it into pages and pages of rambling text? That said, Robb does have some truly beautiful language and the occasional impressive insight, but you'll have a hard time finding them under all the verbal vomit. Copyright concerns and the scarcity of source material can excuse some but not nearly all of this bloated book.
Profile Image for Melanie Samay.
33 reviews4 followers
April 25, 2010
The subject was really interesting, but I felt like the author dragged things out as long as possible. I think the book should have been half of its length. It sadly had a lot of boring stuff thrown in and the author didn't really know how to engage the reader. I kept reading only because I really liked the artist and wanted to know about his life.
Profile Image for Becky.
14 reviews1 follower
February 6, 2009
Completely fascinating at times, but ultimately difficult to get through. If you're looking for an introduction to the life of Caravaggio, this is perhaps not it, but this certainly shows the darker more scandalous side of this swashbuckling, dueling, murdering, running from the pope, genius painter who, by all accounts, jump-started the Baroque era.
Profile Image for Norain.
293 reviews24 followers
January 24, 2021
Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi) was an enormously talented master, whose specialty was light or rather the absence of it. Unfortunately, although his talent was recognised, it was not fully acknowledged during his time. His subjects were controversial - sexualising Biblical figures in his history paintings, using prostitutes as models to represent the likes of Mary, and making some figures too pedestrian and common (barefoot and all) - which caused some commissions, although already completed, not to be displayed as they should have been. At the same time, Caravaggio was also a tempestuous man who kept getting into fights which eventually led him to kill a man during a brawl. He had to flee Rome under threat of a death sentence and joined the the Order of Knights Hospitallers. But he got into trouble there too and had again to run away. In the end his life ended at the age of 38 in a mysterious and inexplicable way.

Art history is a field that I'm recently interested in and honestly, I don't think this book is for someone like me who picked it up not knowing anything about Caravaggio. Caravaggio did not leave enough paper trails for someone to write a book on him, and the approach Peter Robb took was to simply pad his book with everything and anything that existed under the Italian sun at that time. For sure I did manage to string the narrative of Caravaggio's life, but only after sieving through a large amount of distracting, barely related information.

It is obvious that Robb loves Caravaggio. In this age of internet, it is easy to just look up a painting if you want to know what it looks like. But Robb goes into this lavish, excruciating and minute details, lauding the genius of Caravaggio. I never thought I would see purple prose in a non-fiction but here it was. There is also some kind of self-righteous attitude, in pointing out that other writers he quoted were wrong in their interpretation of Caravaggio's works and life, as if no one knows about Caravaggio better than Peter Robb does. I imagine that if any of the BTS fangirls ever reached Robb's level of verbosity, this would be the kind of thing they would write to describe their favourite artistes' songs and dances.

There is also the matter of weird italics which purpose I cannot fathom. Are they quotes from other sources? Are they for emphasis? Are they both? The footnotes don't seem to qualify the former and yet sometimes that seem to be the case. It makes for a confusing reading, for these italics are peppered throughout the book. Also the random colloquial contractions that stand out like sore thumbs in an otherwise formal-style writing.

In the end I did come away knowing more about Caravaggio than when I first started. It is not the worse of books but it did test my patience. I would not suggest it for someone who wants to find out who Caravaggio is and his works. But those who are already acquainted with the painter, this book may make for an interesting discourse.
Profile Image for KV Taylor.
Author 22 books35 followers
February 3, 2009
When this book is brilliant, it's really brilliant. The scholarship has obviously been painstaking, but the presentation detracts from that somewhat. It can't decide if it wants to be a novel or a scholarly work, and I don't think it's quite successful in walking the line between pure entertainment and historical novel (if not fiction). It can be done, but this isn't it.

There's loads of good insight to be had here, though, I'd just recommend to anyone not already used to the weirdly insular and backstabbing/backpatting world of art history to take everything with a grain of salt. (At least, if you're concerned with accuracy. If you're not, this book is even more fun-- reads a bit like The National Enquirer: Rome, 1600). Find an alternate source of information, an introductory book of his complete works, even, and maybe check it out at the same time to sort of even things out.

If you're starring the man it talks about, you have to give Caravaggio five. (Six, really, let's me honest.) If you're working on the merits of this book alone, it's definitely three for me.
Profile Image for Rob Atkinson.
218 reviews14 followers
July 25, 2011
A remarkable bit of detective work this; while Caravaggio's life is much storied -- chiefly about the brawls, his murder of a man in Rome, and his own mysterious death -- the physical evidence documenting that life is scanty at best, and much is hearsay. Robb uses the documented paintings to establish a biographical timeline of sorts, and gathers together much supporting evidence to build a compelling, sympathetic life of the proto-baroque master. His story is solidly grounded in the context of the artistic and political milieu of Italy at the beginning of the 17th c., at the height of the Counter-Reformation. Altogether he creates a convincing narrative of a passionate, but occasionally rash -- and violent -- genius, haplessly caught between powerful competing interests and in a web of papal/political intrigue. Robb's theory of Caravaggio's mysterious, untimely death is probably closer to the truth than any offered before. I have a couple of caveats, however: first, I would recommend anyone picking this up get their hands on a good monograph of Caravaggio's paintings (happily I had John T.Spike's), as the book includes color plates of only a few key paintings, as well as some details focusing on the models who recur in his work. As the text discusses each of his documented works in some detail, and often uses them to make biographical inferences, not being able to examine the images Robb is discussing -- in some detail -- is frustrating. Second, the author is Australian, and while his jocular, colloquial writing style is very engaging, he occasionally employs bits of Aussie slang which were wholly unfamiliar, and a bit baffling at first, to this American reader. However, usually one can tease out his meaning through the overall context of the term within the narrative.

I would certainly recommend "M: The Man Who Became Caravaggio" to anyone who, like myself, is a lover of his painting, for both an insightful critique of his works and perhaps the best biography we'll ever have of the fascinating, turbulent man who created them.
Profile Image for 'Aussie Rick'.
422 reviews212 followers
October 18, 2012

I picked up this book after reading Desmond Seward's Caravaggio: A Passionate Life. As I stated in my review of that book I had no prior knowledge of this artist and it was the beautiful colour plates that initially attracted me to the book. Peter Robb's account of the life of Caravaggio is a much larger book, over 560 pages with numerous B&W and exquisite colour plates. The story covers all aspects of Michelangelo Merisi's (M) life and the author attempts to answer the questions about this artist's dark life.

Peter Robb provided an insight into the politics, art and people of the period which I found very interesting and put much of M's life in perspective. I found that the story flowed along faultlessly and it was a joy to read and to learn about the paintings produced by M during his life. I did find one aspect of the book a little annoying. The author made mention or reference to a number of Caravaggio's paintings but did not provide any plates to illustrate these pictures. In the end I bought a small D&K art book which I used to cross-reference all of the artist pictures when mentioned in the narrative.

Other than that I have no complaints of this beautifully presented book and I am sure that anybody who wants to learn more about this extraordinary man will certainly enjoy this book.

"There was art before him and art after him, and they were not the same." - Robert Hughes
Profile Image for patience.
280 reviews12 followers
November 12, 2009
I actually only got through 159 pages of this book before deciding to give up. Most problematic is Robb's writing style. Almost immediately I was irritated by his decision to call Caravaggio by the initial M throughout (for his given name, Michelangelo Merisi). Also by Robb's strange use of italics--couldn't figure out if this represented quotes or emphasis or both. An example of his impenetrable style: instead of "M would have" he wrote "M'd've." No, really.
Despite this I think I did learn something, although maybe what I learned was misleading--a review by an art historian on Amazon says the book is mostly speculation and is unsupported by the evidence.
Profile Image for Fiona O'Reilly.
333 reviews5 followers
December 1, 2019
Peter Robb's passion for Caravaggio, one of history's greatest artists & both famous & infamous even in his own life, is evident in this gutsy bio. All the rich & powerful wanted his paintings - although several were rejected by churches because they showed real life, common poor people with dirty feet! It's a great book with some shortcomings. The main one is you need to read it with a book that has all of Caravaggio's paintings in colour! I used a rather out of date Scala guide by Bonsanti. Our fabulous Dublin Caravaggio had not yet been revealed. I've to get to Naples now....
Profile Image for Nathalia.
19 reviews
December 10, 2021
This idiosyncratic life of Caravaggio was controversial when it came out in 1998 with Brian Sewell spitting that it only deserved to be pulped...

With that out of the way, though, this an energetic read: Robb does a good job of sketching in the historical background, especially of the Counter-Reformation, against which 'M' kicks, and it's fun to meet Galileo, Giordano Bruno, Beatrice Cenci and others as parts of 'M's' story. Robb is also good at directing us to striking points in the paintings - I'm not a good 'reader' of visual culture so appreciated this aspect of the book. It's a shame that the book itself only reproduces a few paintings so do read this with a tablet handy to Google the relevant works.
Profile Image for Alliegale.
8 reviews
July 19, 2008
It took me a while to read this. The book is almost unreadable. Peter Robb, without evidence, makes wild accusations about the life and art of 'm'. His superfluous style is almost absurd. I don't recommend this book for anything.
Profile Image for Dawson Escott.
107 reviews2 followers
July 12, 2022
I really got invested in this one! However, coming out of it I can't fight the feeling that I might not have picked the right Caravaggio biography. I'm definitely leaving with a better understanding of his life and works, and I respect that Peter Robb is approaching art history from a heterodox angle to academia. In a lot of ways, his tone does benefit from that, most of the time it's easier, exciting, and sometimes even funny to read. He's definitely done his research, and the amount of inference he can glean from brief legal records is convincing and impressive. He clearly has a passion for Caravaggio that comes through, especially in the close visual analyses of every single painting that I see myself using as examples in my own work. That all being said, he has a lot of strange eccentricities as an author. For one, he distances himself from the historical traditions and takes a sort of pride in being special, calling Caravaggio "M" throughout the book (he's the only person who does this), and changing a lot of the commonly used names for the paintings to his own more minimalist titles (The Card Sharps to Cheats, the Martyrdom of Saint Matthew to Matthew Killed). These aren't more direct translations, these are just a weird stylistic quirk of his that rubbed at me. That second example also leads into a pretty clear irreligious bias he has throughout the book. He almost never analyzes the paintings as having any sincere religious messages, only instead as Caravaggio being an almost mythological liberator of art from the burden of religious depiction. He seems to hold the belief that Caravaggio didn't believe any of this and just used it as an excuse to invent modern, realist, painting. I feel like this belief robs the analysis of Caravaggio's art of a lot of potential depth I've seen elsewhere. You can see his distaste with religious painting, for example, in his weird and oft-repeated belief throughout the book that the figure of Jesus in religious art is a stylistic dead weight with no real pathos. And then lastly, he has a sort of fetishization of southern Italy's resilience to poverty and violence that just sometimes comes off strangely. Describing a portrait of Christ's whipping that Caravaggio painted in Naples he wrote, "Pain as a sensual experience was somehow a very Neapolitan thing... Everything was a sensual experience in Naples, and you had to take your pleasures where you could." ????? But yeah, he's an eccentric author with certain clear biases, who ultimately made an engrossing biography. I'm not sure to recommend it outside the field, but I think it's still a valuable perspective on a very important and pretty interesting artist.
Profile Image for Duntay.
105 reviews4 followers
November 2, 2018
Once you got used to Robb's style it is an interesting read. It gave me a new appreciation for Caravaggio's work. I read part of it in Naples and saw The 'Seven Acts of Mercy' and 'Transfixion of Ursula' while there ans the book made me seek out others on the internet.

Though recent news about discoveries of Caravaggio's death (i.e. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/la...) puts paid to some of the speculation in the final chapter, so little is known about the artist that anyone writing about him will be tempted to fill in gaps.
Profile Image for Maria Grazia.
189 reviews62 followers
August 5, 2011
I read an Italian translation of this biography by Australian author Peter Robb, "M. L'Enigma Caravaggio", which I bought in Rome in one of my recent errands with friends around the capital. Honestly, I thought it was a fictionalized biography, instead, it is a biographical work based on a thourough research and a great deal of documents. I've always been attracted by the dark, violent, realistic paintings of the man called Caravaggio from the name of the town he was brought up in. What make them so special is how the light breaks into the darkness often revealing shocking realistic portraits of human sufferings, pains, sorrow and violence.
The entire existence of Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio, is still today a highly fascinating enigma. Thanks to his sensitiveness and to his accurate researches based on first-hand documents, Peter Robb brings back to life both the man and the artist in the 527 pages of this book, and he does that with great, powerful tragicality. He dares word his own hypothesis on the inexplicable facts in Michelangelo Merisi's life, such as his final disappearance. Nobody knows where, when and, especially, how he died.

Robb makes Caravaggio's death part of a disquieting context of sexual vengeance, betrayals, state corruption, revealing the name of the person who ordered the murder of the painter. But this is just one of the many hypothesis suggested to compensate the lack of real information. No clues. No evidence.

Despite its not being a work of fiction, M. THE MAN WHO BECAME CARAVAGGIO can be as seductive as a good mystery novel , like a thriller, due to the flow of incredible events in the artist's real life. From his childhood in Lombardia, a region in the North of Italy, to the long period he spent in Rome, until his professional triumph and then the existential catastrophe of the last years: the sentence for murder, his escape to Naples first and to Malta afterwards, the prison, the jailbreak and the mysterious disappearance. M is not a traditional academic biobraphical study but the real story of a man who was a painter who radically changed Art.

Read also my reviews:
1. Caravaggio the TV series http://bit.ly/oYkILW
2. 2010 Caravaggio Exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome http://bit.ly/oCNbR8
Profile Image for Nina Ive.
191 reviews6 followers
February 8, 2017
I read this book just before I moved to Sicily to live and work as a Nanny with an Italian family for a year. I knew nothing about Caravaggio before this, but afterwards I became devoted to seeing his works of art all over Europe. I have ticked off a few. They are beautiful and Robb did a brilliant job of bringing them to life on paper and describing the life and times of the painter surrounding each project.
Profile Image for Castles.
470 reviews17 followers
November 24, 2018
Boy, is this book DENSE!

I can’t really summarize or review a work that vast but I will say that this book is mainly for Caravaggio fanatics.

That means that if you just want to know more generally about the painter and his art, I’d recommend starting with a different book. Francine Prose wrote a wonderful short one reading into his paintings, then you can deepen your knowledge with the wonderful book of Andrew Graham Dixon.

But this one, save to last because it’s so dense and full of information and details about the geopolitical background of the times, that you really must be very interested in the subject to enjoy it, and there’s a lot to enjoy.

The week points of this books which are not a big deal - annoyingly calling him M instead of Caravaggio. Why? The book is so slow and packed that at one point you might forget who you’re reading about.

Without spoiling I’ll just say that the last chapter is brilliant and that Robb’s theory about Caravaggio’s death is surprising.
Profile Image for Fadilla Putri.
75 reviews48 followers
October 25, 2011
Actually, I read this book because my lecturer obliged her students to read this and write essays based on the story. Actually, at first I was pretty interested to continue reading, until I stuck on page 250. I don't know why, but the more I read this book, the more NO other information that I could get from this. So, I decided to stop reading on page 250. However, believe it or not, I had successfully written 5 essays so far! Thank God that there was no sixth essay. Anw, I gave this book 4 stars because I admire Peter Robb. He could arrange this heavy-reading book based on true story. I learned a lot from this book, especially how the religion war between Protestant and Catholic could happen. Moreover, I know that he even hadn't been born yet at that time! I think that part was the most challenging part, but I know that Peter Robb could deliver the story very well.
Profile Image for Ty.
49 reviews2 followers
December 19, 2021
This doesn't happen very often, but I had to give up on this book. I just can't drag myself through it. There was a lot of good & interesting information in this book (the author clearly knew his subject), but the writing style is TERRIBLE!!! He would switch subjects out of nowhere & you'd have to read (or re-read) multiple paragraphs before you understood what the author was discussing. He would use casual terms like "sus" for suspect or "tits" like he was explaining a Playboy to his adolescent friends & not writing a biography for individuals interested in art & history. Overall I was extremely disappointed because Caravaggio is one of my top favorite artists & I was really looking forward to getting to know him better. Instead I found myself bored & frustrated.
Profile Image for Pewterbreath.
420 reviews18 followers
October 27, 2013
Biography is a tricky animal. On one hand if it gets too gossipy, it turns tabloid and begins to seem cheap. If it's too appropriate on the other hand, it gets dry--you might as well read "Lives of the Saints." For the most part this biography treads well between the two, with some interesting stories coming from Caravaggio's world. At times, though, it gets over-academic and dry, and starts talking about paintings that you don't have included in this text (very vexing. . .that). Ideally, it should be edited like The Princess Bride into a "good parts version." Have a friend read it first and highlight interesting things and just read those.
Profile Image for Max.
47 reviews1 follower
January 26, 2009
Slow going, but worth the read. The pictures in the book suck, but there are good high resolution zoomable photos at http://www.caravaggio.com/preview/col.... You can even arrange the paintings in the chronology given in the book (Robb 1998).

*update* Goodreads just sent me a reminder that I've had this book listed as 'currently reading' for three months. Yeah, I'm still working on it. Right now Caravaggio is hiding out from a murder rap in Naples, with 130 pages to go.

*update II* Finished it! There's some good conspiracy theory stuff at the end, and Robb makes a pretty good case that there was foul play involved in Caravaggio's death.
Profile Image for Elisha.
52 reviews
Want to read
April 22, 2009
So far I can only read a few pages at a time. I have always had a decent comprehension level, but this is a bit much for me. Maybe I am tired or all the names of the people and what family they belong to and how exactly do they fit into the story? I love Caravaggio's paintings and can not wait to learn more about him. An Art History teacher mentioned the story of his David II which I found extremely interesting as well as one of the most darkest and saddest stories. I wanted to hug him just before I slapped him and called him a dirty perv.
Profile Image for Gareth.
4 reviews3 followers
December 28, 2010
This book was my introduction to the M figure.
Peter Robb's writing style will give you whiplash. I did find myself going back over pages to make sure I had properly absorbed each dislocated sentence.
It's a courageous and speculative exposé of a dark and macabre character. And completely worth the discomfort.
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