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on April 27, 2008
This is a smart, beautifully written book about a most intriguing painter. Bersani and Dutoit present some fascinating arguments about secrecy and seduction; you don't have to be an expert on art history to follow them or agree with their insights. Highly recommended.
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on May 5, 1999
Be warned: this is a seductive book. But, alas, it is not a very good one. No doubt many urban men interested in art and gay studies and aspiring to a certain intellectual milieu have already purchased it, and it is best kept in such circles. At most, one can say that it is compelling, provocative, but within the domain of art history, rather silly, and the arguments weak. As readers of this book will see, it has no base in history. If we want to know how Caravaggio's works were received by the culture of his time we must look elsewhere. If we want to know what was going on in his mind as he worked his canvases, we must look to diaries, documents, etc., and there are few. I would say Bersani and Dutoit's book is imaginative, creative, often-times shocking in its daring, but it is not art history. They do look closely. The strongest element of their argument is their description of the interplay of gazes, between the painted boys and the viewer, and between the figures in the pictorial realm. Their reading of the David and Goliath, and their theory of "between-ness," is interesting, but it is hard to believe that Caravaggio would have ascribed to such a way of thinking in his own time. For academic purposes, this book is best consulted for its sources cited, standards like Friedlander and Askew, and for its justifiably harsh criticism and commentary on Donald Posner's subversively homophobic article on "Caravaggio's Early Homoerotic works." But, in general, this book and its ideas are best kept on the coffee tables and peppered in the conversations of the work-a-days who meet for drinks at twilight: "Have you read the new Leo Bersani??"
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on April 27, 2002
It is sad to see how this book has been misunderstood. This book is not about "art history" or even "criticism." But it is a creative attempt to affirm one's experience through Caravaggio's paintings as inventing different "forms" to relate to others (both human and non-human).
Bersani and Dutoit, in such a poetic way, challenge how we look at art in general--. We interpret it instead of experiencing it. As a practioner of painting, I feel that they wrote this book NOT from the position of a critic, who often tries to be a custodian of culture.
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on December 15, 1999
I disagree with the other reviewer -- this *is* art history. Yes, art history relies on documents, history, even x-radiography, but it is equally reliant on models of analysis and new ways of looking. Caravaggio's work has begged a critical approach like this one, and while I may not agree with the authors' conclusions, their discussion is provocative and inspiring. If you want a survey of Caravaggio's career, choose one of the many books out there that satisfy this niche. If you want to deepen your perspective of Caravaggio, and of art in general, read this book. It will give you something to think about.
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on March 17, 2004
Well, at least this book, which really has fallen out of circulation and is not often-read even among students of seventeenth-century Italian painting, is still being discussed in this forum. I add my voice to the list of the unenthused. The book insists on psychoanalytic readings and imports a decidely dated 1990's post-modern vocabularly that lowers a seductive, gauzy veil around Caravaggio's paintings, but absolutely does not serve to illuminate them in any way. The last reviewer, a painter, expresses a muted disregard for the work of critics; I would remind this reviewer that writers and critics are the custodians of culture, and that the job of the writer on art is to illuminate, perhaps through description, which is a form of interpretation, how a work of art lives in the world; and the job of the critic is to make distinctions. (All art is not popular culture, subject to equalizing democratic standards.) For this clear, crafted prose -- prose that is accessible both to the scholar and an intelligent audience interested in art -- is always best. Perhaps one of the reasons this book is laregly overlooked is that written for neither of the above it has failed to find an audience.
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on April 4, 2000
I looked forward to this book with much anticipation, and readit carefully twice and I am not convinced by their argument, but feelthat in its trendiness it will not be a long-lasting addition to Caravaggio scholarship. In many ways, after only a few years on the market, it remains fairly unnoticed by the academy, and remains relatively untaught in graduate seminars. I can't image it is a book that will interest the general reader with its physcoanalytic interpretations and academic lingo. I feel compelled to give it one star in order to balance out the scales and alert prospective readers that there are those of us who did not find it worthwhile. END
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