Caravaggio: a Passionate Life

  • UK 2013 (Thistle Press); USA, 1998, William Morrow (Hearst Group)
  • Translations, 2000, Japanese (Hakusuisha): 2003, Polish (Dolnoslaskie)


A religious artist who used prostitutes for models, a mystic with a police record, the Pope’s portrait painter and a murderer, having hidden in the Roman hills as an outlaw on the run, Caravaggio joined the Knights of Malta – to be imprisoned in a dungeon for duelling with a fellow knight. Escaping, he was hunted down in a vendetta with an unknown enemy and horribly disfigured by sword cuts in a Neapolitan brothel. Ironically, he died on a lonely Tuscan beach after receiving a pardon. Based on the latest research, written like an adventure story, the book concentrates on the man without neglecting the artist, recreating his life in Baroque Rome and as a ‘monk of war’ in Malta.

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Reviews of: Caravaggio: a Passionate Life

  • Seward does a fine job of piercing together circumstantial evidence of the painter’s turbulent life, while skilful juxtaposition of Caravaggiofs personal narrative and art illuminates the origin of his dramatic style.

    Kirkus Review
  • a well researched biography of Caravaggio which, in his own words, “uses [the]pictures to peer into his mind.” Aimed at the general reader rather than the specialist, it certainly succeeds … In many ways his treatment is reminiscent, as he admits, of Peter Schaffer’s treatment of Mozart.

    The Art Newspaper
  • Seward’s scholarship is pointed, unpretentious, often amusing … a lively read and a rewarding one.

    Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel