|About the Book|
As I wrote in the Introduction to my book Caravaggio, Caravaggio was for all practical purposes the inventor of chiaroscuro, the extensive use of light and dark. The scuro--the dark part of his life--was in abundance in Caravaggio’s career: violence,MoreAs I wrote in the Introduction to my book Caravaggio, Caravaggio was for all practical purposes the inventor of chiaroscuro, the extensive use of light and dark. The scuro--the dark part of his life--was in abundance in Caravaggio’s career: violence, street brawls and at least one killing. Based on the paintings of his two principal lovers, Cecco and Minniti, both of whom developed into accomplished artists, we see what was perhaps the chiaro side--the light segment: languorous looks of youths in love with the man behind the brushes.For Cesare there is no known chiaro. If he cared for any living thing, even a dog, we are unaware of it. That he had Caligulan relations with his sister is attested to by several sources. That he killed his own brother Juan was witnessed by a man present as Cesare had the lad’s body thrown into the Tiber (‘’Giving the orders in Spanish, Sire, was a man on a white charger, dressed all in black, the horse’s hooves and his spurs were of silver’’). He spoke filthy locker-room vernacular Italian, but was nonetheless called charming by most who knew him. He raped anything that caught his eye, including the Countess Caterina Riario Sforza de’ Medici. (‘’At least she’ll have a lot of sex,’’ said a French captain as Cesare led her away). It was during an orgy that he murdered the seventeen-year-old Astorre Manfredi, said to be the most beautiful boy in Italy, after using his buttocks and those of Astorre’s fifteen-year-old brother. He assassinated several of his sister Lucrezia’s husbands, one of whom she dearly loved.Never the fool, Cesare meticulously planned for the coming death of his father, Pope Alexander VI, amassing wealth and arms. What led to his undoing made an ending not even a Hollywood production could have envisioned.One is attracted to Cesare as one is universally drawn to evil, to a black hole, to the Dark Side. He was evil personified, this man of great height and great beauty, an accomplished athlete who amused himself with wrestling husky village lads. A warrior who knew from birth that his calling was military conquest, he succeeded over the body of the brother he slew.The age in which Cesare Borgia lived was pitiless and lustful, an age of red and white, blood and sperm. Children really were massacred while clinging to their mothers’ breasts. It was an age of contrasts, one in which Michelangelo wrote sonnets to his beloved Tommaso Cavalieri, while in Malta the heads of Turks were shot through cannon from the fortifications held by the Knights of St. John. An age where Caravaggio pushed aside passers-by while searching for trouble, where women were flattened against walls while men took their pleasure--violence that would relegate Clockwork Orange to the realm of a tale for infants. It was an age of Sforza brute force and de’ Medici humanism- an age of artists, painters, sculptors and architects who make our own Andy-Warholian era shine by its comparative mediocrity.This is the story of that age.