If you want passion and drama, duels and intrigue, with the odd Capulet vs. Montague style argument and an occasional ‘I bite my thumb at you’ flip off, Caravaggio is the artist to read about.
I love Caravaggio. His art will forever be exceptional, but when you understand the life of the man who painted them, you’ll start to see them in a different light.
Take Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, for example. A dark, haunting image to begin with. Add in the knowledge that, at the time of painting it, Caravaggio was on the run from the law, the promise of beheading hiding in every shadow. Now throw in the fact that the head of St. John is Caravaggio himself, that he sent the painting directly to Rome. Now read the painting again: You can have my head here, he practically writes. You cannot have my head in reality.
Gilles Lambert’s introduction to Caravaggio is, without a doubt, one of my favourite Taschen publications, and a brilliant start to a lifelong love for you.