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Caravaggio: the Complete Works by Taschen and Beautiful Bookbindings: A Thousand Years of the Bookbinder’s Art by PJM Marks

I am combining a couple of book reviews because they are both about art and not very long. 

Caravaggio. The Complete Works by Sebastian Schütze

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Other reviewers have described Caravaggio’s dark side so I won’t bother to here. I will simply state what I loved about this book and I did love it.

Let’s start with the book itself. It is compact, only 7 by 6 inches long and wide, but a good two inches thick. It is a hard back with an enticing dust cover. The face of Judith (the charming lady who beheaded Holosfernes-but he did deserve it) is shown in detail. It is a solid, heavy book and it feels good to hold it. The pages are all glossy and, even though it is not coffee table size, Taschen has mde sure to give coffee table size detail to each and every painting as well as smaller versions of the complete painting. In short, this book is an absolute treat.

I did not know much about Caravaggio, although I did recognize some of the paintings. I came across him in an encyclopedia I was reading about the history of art. He entrigued me so I got this book plus a biography.

This book, while giving some background, deals more with the analysis of his works, who influenced him and whom he influenced.

A couple interesting facts: Caravaggio elevated the technique of chiaroscuro to an unprecedented level. Chiaroscuro is creating sharp contrasts between light and dark. His work influenced later artists like Rembrandt.

Another thing Caravaggio did was to create realistic paintings, much to the shock of his contemporary public. Traditionally, biblical figures were made to look unearthly, above the common man. Caravaggio painted them in contemporary dress looking like ordinary people.

His paintings are highly dramatic, sometimes sordid, such as the beheading of John, or David holding the head of Goliath, whose eyes look as though they were still fading from life. Other paintings are depictions of the martyrs and also Lazarus being raised.

The most powerful painting for me is his second rendition of Paul on the road to Damascus. Paul is on his back, his arms in the air as he tries to shield himself from the blinding light. He is lying next to his horse whom he has presumably just fallen off. He looks in danger of being trampled underfoot. I’d print the picture, but I’m not sure about copyright laws. However, you can google it and find it easily enough.

Caravaggio’s temperament got him into trouble, he got into brawls, killed a man in a duel, was in and out of trouble with the law, escaping severe punishment because of his patrons. Nevertheless, he died young due to a sudden illness.

After his death little was known about him. It seems as if a lot of his life was erased and biographies only came later. But Caravaggio is an artist worth getting to know, his work is absorbing and this book does it justice.

View all my reviews

Beautiful Bookbindings: A Thousand Years of the Bookbinder’s Art by P.J.M. Marks

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the most gorgeous books you will ever read. The illustrations are large, color and glossy. The quality of the paper perfect.

Basically the book traces books that were bound as an art form going back to before the printing press to present day artistically rendered book bindings.

It concisely explains the different materials involved, how different countries and cultures approached book binding as an art form, and what the different designs meant.

It has a chapter devoted to the influence of design and style and also a history of how the art originated and developed as well as who the book binders were.

If you were completely illiterate you would still love this book for the gorgeous photographs.

View all my reviews

17 thoughts on “Caravaggio: the Complete Works by Taschen and Beautiful Bookbindings: A Thousand Years of the Bookbinder’s Art by PJM Marks

  1. i’ve read at least one bio of Caravaggio; he was indeed a rebellious type. i get him mixed up with Benvenuto Cellini who was equally riotous if not more so (his autobio is hardly creditable, altho very exciting)… the binding book seems interesting. book binding is a lot more complicated than one might think, i discovered when i was trying to find out something about it many years back…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read Cellin’i’s biography. What a macho braggaocio. Geez. I like Caravaggio better, simply because what I’ve read was written by others, not himself. Cellini’s bio is so biased in his favor, you have to wonder how much of it is true.


  2. I’ve been very pleased with what few Taschen books I own. They alway seem to put out quality products, so I’m happy to hear their Caravaggio book is no different. I know the name but I’m not very familiiar with his work other than whatever I might have seen in a museum. I’ll have to do a little research. And the whole topic and art of bookbinding is fascinating, though another topic I don’t know much about, just that I appreciate a well crafted physical book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Todd,

      I must confess that I am a Taschen book junkie. I have the compact $20.00 editions of about thirty of the books. I guess I should publish a post of all the Taschen art books I own.

      As for bookbinding. That was something I came across by accident and it really interested me as an art form. They are people today who bind books. They are lovely….and expensive.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Cleo!

      He did push the limits. I just didn’t bother writing about it because it’s been covered in other books as well as this one, so I thought I’d focus more on his work.

      The books definitely make a great Christmas gift (even if it’s to ourselves).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sharon I never read about Caravaggio’s life but have to say that his paintings are rich and dramatic. Some are quite graphic which lends a very realistic view. The book about bookbinding sounds like something I may want to check out at our local library. Thanks for the wonderful reviews. Hope your weekend is good. Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

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