Cover image for Caravaggio's secrets
Caravaggio's secrets
Bersani, Leo.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
x, 118 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
General Note:
"An October book."
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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ND623.C26 B48 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Many critics have explored the homoerotic message in the early portraits of the baroque painter Michelangelo Caravaggio (1573-1610). In this text the authors emphasize instead the impenetrability of these portraits. The tension between erotic invitation and self-concealing retreat leads them to conclude that the interest of these works is in their representation of an enigmatic address that solicit intimacy in order to block it with a secret.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

The fascination of the turbulent life of brilliant Baroque painter Michelangelo Caravaggio (1573-1610) cannot be denied, and British historian Seward's brief biographical study efficiently encapsulates what is known about the artist's sordid existence. But the derivative, fragmentary, and inadequate discussion of the artist's work vitiates his efforts. Seward slips into the common fallacy of assuming that the painter's subject matter is a reflection of his psychic state, though he never characterizes the nature of Caravaggio's psychological perturbation. Like other biographers of inadequately documented historical figures, Seward on occasion will allow an earlier hypothesis to become the foundation for a later argument. Although not as up to date, Howard Hibbard's Caravaggio (LJ 5/15/83) remains the requisite foundation study. Employing a "methodology" that blends an ahistorical pastiche of critical theory, uncritical psychoanalytic assertion, and a touch of muddled Marxism, Bersani and Dutoit‘academics but not art historians‘have postulated a reading of Caravaggio's works that alternates between the unevidenced and the unintelligible. The obscurity of their language combined with the ludicrous modernity of their analysis evokes an art that exists merely to serve as a plaything for literary pyrotechnics. The past, language, humanistic scholarship, and common sense are traduced in the service of post-rational subjectivity and obscurantism. Thus, the demented but inspired genius becomes the object of pseudo-thoughts like "Caravaggio is a crucial figure in the history of a suspicion fatal to the procedures and the confidence of philosophy: the suspicion that truth cannot be the object of knowledge, that it cannot be theorized." That a major university has placed its imprimatur on such pretentious rubbish can only serve to besmirch liberal studies. Neither book is recommended.‘Robert Cahn, Fashion Inst. of Technology, New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.