Caravaggio

Caravaggio

by John T. Spike, Michelangelo Merisi Da Caravaggio, Michele K. Spike
     
 

For the first time nearly every extant work by Caravaggio is reproduced in color in this lavish new volume, the long-awaited result of more than 20 years of research by a leading authority on the artist.

In an engaging and informed text, John T. Spike explores in detail Caravaggio's scandalous life and provocative work. Placing Caravaggio within the broad panorama

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Overview

For the first time nearly every extant work by Caravaggio is reproduced in color in this lavish new volume, the long-awaited result of more than 20 years of research by a leading authority on the artist.

In an engaging and informed text, John T. Spike explores in detail Caravaggio's scandalous life and provocative work. Placing Caravaggio within the broad panorama of society and ideas at the turn of the 17th century, the author sets a richly detailed stage for an artist who has been called "the first modern painter." Caravaggio (1571-1610) reflected in his canvases his own desires and spiritual crises to an extent no one ever had imagined possible, and he shocked his contemporaries by portraying the saints and virgins of Christianity with the faces and bodies of his companions and lovers in Rome's demimonde.

Accompanying the book is a critical catalog on CD-ROM in which all of Caravaggio's extant paintings, as well as lost and rejected works, are thoroughly described. Each entry specifies the work's medium, dimensions, location, and provenance, and provides an annotated bibliography of sources. Most of the entries conclude with a brief technical analysis. Much of this scientific data, of prime importance for attribution and dating, has not previously been published.

With its fresh insights, as well as judicious readings of the documents and the physical evidence of the paintings themselves, Caravaggio is the most thorough study on the artist to date, and it will no doubt remain a definitive monograph for many years to come.

Author Biography: John T. Spike is an internationally respected critic and historian of art. He has organized many exhibitions of Italian art and has published major books on the Florentine Renaissance, including Abbeville's Masaccio and Fra Angelico.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
New publications celebrate the 400th anniversary of Caravaggio's death. Spike (A History of Western Art: From Prehistory to the 20th Century) relates Caravaggio's paintings to contemporaneous events as well as to his religious, political, and social surroundings in this lavishly illustrated catalogue raisonné. The accompanying searchable CD-ROM catalog includes extant, lost, and rejected paintings; discussions of iconography; medium; dimension; location; provenance; and an annotated bibliography. This second edition features a new preface, updated biography, additional illustrations, and comparative photographs and X-rays showing the artistic process. Fried (Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before) retains the style of his series of Mellon Lectures, on which his new book is based, while expanding the content. His central themes are Caravaggio's "internal dynamic" of the acts of creating the painting, finishing the work, and giving it over to the viewer. Fried, who uses Spike's first edition as a source, also explores "self-absorbed" paintings in which viewers do not participate vs. those into which they are invited. Both books offer indexes and endnotes; Spike's catalogue raisonné also presents comparative and technical illustrations. While Fried compares Caravaggio's work to that of artists as seemingly far afield as James McNeill Whistler and Henri Matisse, Spike takes the more traditional chronological approach. VERDICT Owing to differing approaches and content, both titles are recommended for special collections, art faculty and students, and interested general readers.—Nancy J. Mactague, Aurora Univ. Lib., IL
From the Publisher

Praise for Caravaggio:

“Of considerable value to serious students of art history…” — Library Journal

“The Caravaggio book I've been waiting for—John Spike has a great eye, an informed mind and a lucid, engaging style. He shows the intellectual drama of Caravaggio's art.” — Peter Robb, author of M: The Man Who Became Caravaggio

“A large, sumptuous volume, profusely illustrated with excellent color plates that are carefully integrated into the text itself…meticulous scholarship…underlines its lively prose.” — John Varriano, College Art Association

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780789206398
Publisher:
Abbeville Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/28/2007
Edition description:
BK&CD-ROM
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
11.22(w) x 13.24(h) x 1.26(d)

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Excerpt from Caravaggio

Preface to the Second Edition

A decade has passed since the first publication of this book in 2001, twice reprinted in the interim. During that time, a steady stream of exhibitions and scholarly conferences has kept Caravaggio in the forefront of Italian art research. The quatercentenary of the artist's death and 1610 seems an appropriate moment to assess new information in the field and issue a second revised edition.

This new edition updates the text and notes with archival findings that have clarified a number of details in the artist's biography. It is now certain that Michelangelo Merisi was born in Milan on September 29, 1571, rather than in his family's home town of Caravaggio. The mystery surrounding his precipitous arrest and imprisonment in Valletta, Malta, and 1608 has been dispelled: he was caught in an armed brawl. As this book goes to press, however, the most intriguing threads of Caravaggio’s story—the date, place, and cause of his death—remain untied, despite recent theories such as those surrounding the loose slip of paper that was hopefully announced as the artist's death notice. The odd circumstances of its discovery in the archives of the same Port’Ercole parish for which the Liber Mortuorum for 1610 is extant and complete has left specialists unconvinced as to its authenticity.

Readers will find that a two-page supplement has been added with photographs of two newly discovered sources for Caravaggio's compositions, together with some unpublished x-rays from the archives of Editech Laboratory, Florence (pp. 244-45). Queen Elizabeth II's Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew has been included in the text, as a result of its recent restoration. Bibliographies, both general and for the catalogue entries, have been brought up to date on the CD-ROM, usually with parenthetical annotations as to date and attribution.

Recent research can be divided into two main lines of inquiry. The first concerns Caravaggio's patronage and the passage of his paintings through successive collections to the present. In addition to contributions in scholarly journals and conferences, the publication of the Giustiniani and Costa inventories were major events in Caravaggio provenance. Inventory references, documents, and sources were collected in an indispensable anthology by Stefania Macioce in 2003.

The first edition of this catalogue raisonné marked a turning point in the provenance studies, presenting divergent proposals in parallel and clearly identifying the gaps in the historical chain between the early descriptions and the actual works of art, many of which were untraced during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This approach has been influential, encouraged no doubt by the unprecedented global distribution of the catalogue raisonné in easily copied, completely searchable, digital text. The decision by publisher Robert Abrams to transfer its 100,000 words to a CD-ROM, rather than printed two additional volumes, was visionary as well as generous. Wherever I travel, I encounter curators, professors, and students who carry the catalogue in their computers.

The second line of research concerns the connoisseurship of Caravaggio's paintings. It is safe to say that current opinion on attributions, on what is to be regarded as autograph and what a school piece, or a copy, is very much divided. The Narcissus, for example, seems to enter and exit by revolving door. Copies of previously disputed pictures are now being weighed as additional originals. Current inquiries into provenance and replicas are closely related. Compelling evidence has been found in documents that Caravaggio's collectors also owned his copies, that Caravaggio provided copies to supporters like Philippe de Béthune, and that picture dealers like Prospero Orsi, Giulio Mancini, and Michelangelo Vanni energetically sought to make and sell copies as early as 1611. Some of these paintings have re-emerged from obscurity and her being appreciated, without attempting to identify them with the copies described in the archives.

And finally, an update is in order for the references in the first edition to David Hockney's, Charles Falco's, and the present writer’s research into whether Caravaggio made studio use of projected images. Back in 2001, questions were being raised as to why such projections were not discussed in early writings and whether the necessary optical equipment would have been available. The subsequent outpouring of literary references, from sources as early as the medieval Roman de la Rose and contemporaries such as Giambattista Della Porta and Cigoli, has answered these questions with a confident affirmative.

John T. Spike

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Meet the Author


John T. Spike, an internationally respected critic and historian of art, received his doctorate from Harvard. He has published major books on artists of the Florentine Renaissance, including Masaccio and Fra Angelico (Abbeville Press). John and Michèle Spike and their son Nicolas have lived in Florence since 1989.

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