Things to Read with Caravaggio in Mind

HASAN NIYAZI, impressario of Three Pipe Problem, had included a list of readings that informed his essay in the previous post, Navigating the Cognitive Philosophy of Michael Fried. I omitted the roster simply to conform more closely to the format of Studio Matters. The audience for this blog are, in the main, other working artists, a critic or two (one of whom comments anonymously), and art history buffs in the finest sense of the word amateur. Professional art historians, a rarified priesthood, tend to prefer talking to each other.

Caravaggio, "Conversion of St. Paul"

Nevertheless, Niyazi’s book shelf holds many fine things, as you already know if you have visited his site. So, without more ado, his acknowledgments appear below:

Damisch, H. A childhood memory by Piero della Francesca. [Goodman, J. Trans]. Stanford University Press. 2007

Freedberg, SJ. Circa 1600: A Revolution of Style in Italian Painting. Belknap Press. 1986

Freedberg, SJ. Painting in Italy 1500-1600 (3rd Edition) Yale University Press. 1996

Fried, M.  Art and Objecthood – Essays and Reviews. University of Chicago Press.  1998

Fried, M. The Moment of Caravaggio. Princeton University Press. 2010.

Fried, M. Thoughts on the Caravaggisti. The Sydney J. Freedberg Lecture on Italian Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington 2010

Hall, MB. The Sacred Image on the Age of Art. Yale University Press .  2011

Nagel, A. The Controversy of Renaissance Art. University of Chicago Press. 2011.

Rowland, I. From Heaven and Arcadia. The Sacred and the Profane in the Renaissance. New York Review Books. 2008

Shearman. J. Only Connect…Art and the spectator in Renaissance Italy. Princeton University Press. 1994

Spranzi, M.  The Art of Dialectic between Dialogue and Rhetoric -The Aristotelian Tradition. John Benjamins Publishing Company 2011

Missing from the list is Walter Friedländer’s 1969 Caravaggio Studies. That text is so fundamental that it is hardly necessary to mention it. Still, there is value in adding it on—just in case. It applies here, in part because Friedländer was a native German speaker. Yet he language of his discussion of Caravaggio is more accessible, kinder to the ear and to his subject, than anything ever penned by Fried. He discusses the works with great empathy:

Caravaggio represented the Conversion of St. Paul with the same kind of sober observation, with the same close sensuous grasp of the factual and the tangible, which St. Ignatius would have demanded from the imagination of the exercant. In composition, too, the space is strictly limited and precisely measurable. The miraculous light is powerfully visualized without the indication of an ethereal source., and the celestial voice can almost be heard by the spectator, even without the image of Christ who utters it—exactly as it would be heard by the exercant in his overstimulated imagination. . . . Caravaggio’s representation of the mystery in completely human terms corresponds closely in spirit to the contemplation of the mysteries in the Exercitia [Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises]; both make the supernatural tangible and understandable to man’s spiritual intelligence with the help of the senses.

In the end, Fried is really not necessary.

© 2011 Maureen Mullarkey


  1. Cheers for adding this Maureen! I simply included the references whose concepts were directly referenced in the piece. Friedländer’s text is a recommended addition to anyone interested in Caravaggio, I’d add the same for Creighton Gilbert as well.

    Not all art historians are insular, some commented on that very post and many of the regulars at 3PP are from this ‘rarified priesthood’ I think the newer generation of art historians are starting to realise the wonderful potential of the web to spread information and allow collaboration between disciplines. There will always be those who prefer to remain cloistered, though you can find this in any profession.

    Many Kind Regards

  2. By all means, Creighton Gilbert. “Caravaggio and the Two Cardinals,” written in the mid-1990s, places Caravaggio squarely and luminously within the religious politics of the Counter Reformation era. Add to the list.

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