My issue with this publication in Konemann's "Masters of Italian Art" series does not involve its layout and written matter - which is up to the same great standard as can be found in 4 other volumes I already own. Expecting a similar quality I was dumbfounded looking at so many miserable images - which obviously do him a disservice
The problem being Caravaggio's most characteristic paintings are extremely dark. Plus it seems he used poor materials (black oil) much of which has seriously deteriorated. Just as Zerox machines do a poor job copying black it seems Konemann's printing presses were defeated by the task of replicating the extreme subtelty of his famous highly dramatic "chiaroscruro" paintings.
What one gets throughout is a sharp transition from highlighted flesh etc. into virtual black nothingness. Whereas even the ordinary postcards I bought in Italy over 40 years shows amongst the darkness are subtly suggested backgrounds and architectural details - to break-up what would otherwise be stark black and light viewing experiences.
Konemann are not alone failing to do Caravaggio true justice. A much larger expensive monograph published by Abbeville has even worse (all-black) reproductions. In their case the flesh tones in his early masterpeices tend to be pinkish and having seen many of the originals one knows his rendering of flesh was always naturalistic.
With Caravaggio coming back into fashion one looks forward to new publications where every effort is made to print reproduction of his entire oeuvre faithfully capturing every nuance of his brushwork - and artistic intentions. I see a new Caravaggio opus will be published by Skira in September 2010. With their fantastic track record for impeccable reproductions this may at last be the very first Caravaggio book which gets his colours right.
Even if this might involve digitally eliminating the damage done by "time" surely what really matters is to see what this extraordinary artist's radical innovations actually looked like when they first left his hand? Sadly not to be discerned when leafing through this volume.
This 11 x 12.6 inches (28 x 32 cm) book, beautifully published on crispy white glossy paper, contains way over 100 excellent color reproductions mostly of a big size. The color accuracy is as good as it can get. The book is divided into chapters reflecting chronological periods of the artist's life described in detail. The art works are accompanied by thorough analysis. There are also chapters containing life chronology, glossary, selected bibliography, and photographic credits. This is a spectacular book.