I’ll Caravaggio You In A Minute
Reading the news reports on Dermot Ahern’s Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Bill last week, I started to wonder what would be to hand should a burglar decide to climb through the window. I’m fairly low on gun and knife stocks at the moment, but what I do have weighing down my table is Andrew Graham-Dixon’s huge book, Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane.
You will no doubt know Graham-Dixon from his stints on the BBC’s excellent Culture Show, as art critic with the Sunday Telegraph and from his various other documentary series (his series on Spanish art was particularly strong). I think he’s a particularly good presenter and brings plenty of enthusiasm to bear, something which can often be lacking in arts coverage – mind you, when you can rely on the kind of budget the BBC seems to have, it can be easy to stir up your enthusiasm. The man chartered a helicopter for one Culture Show piece – a helicopter. Imagine sticking that one on expenses.
But back to Caravaggio and the burglar bashing – this book is particularly good for fighting crime for two reasons. One, its enormous – at 500 pages, it would probably put a dent in anything it was bounced off, not to mention being thick enough to possibly stop bullets. Secondly, it’s about Caravaggio, a man who spent as much time getting into rows and drinking as he seems to have spent painting. And he spent most of his life living in fear of the authorities after killing a man in a duel.
But is the book any good? Well, it took Graham-Dixon a decade to research and write it, so it’s exhaustive to say the least. Caravaggio is perhaps the original rock star, and Graham-Dixon does seem a little at pains to stay clear of the whoring and brawling that make such good copy and no doubt scandalized late 16th century Italian society in the same way that Heat magazine keeps the classes chattering today. What Graham-Dixon is strong at is tracing Caravaggio’s continuing influence, and he manages to rope Martin Scorsese in to write a few chapters on how you couldn’t have Taxi Driver and Mean Streets without The Calling of Matthew.
Now that I’m finished this monster, I’m looking for some other arty biographical gems. Any suggestions? And if any burglars are not put off with the threat of flying books, please note – the neighbours are much better off than me.
And speaking of Mean Streets, here’s Harvey and Bob doing their thing. Now that, my peeps, is an entrance.