Andrew Graham-Dixon Art critic, journalist, TV presenter, author, lecturer and educationalist.

Caravaggio - A Life Sacred and Profane

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio lived the darkest and most dangerous life of any of the great painters. The worlds of Milan, Rome and Naples through which Caravaggio moved and which Andrew Graham-Dixon describes brilliantly in this book, are those of cardinals and whores, prayer and violence.

Andrew Graham-Dixon has spent a decade piecing together the scraps of evidence left of Caravaggio’s life and here he answers questions that have long puzzled scholars. He reveals the identities of the ordinary people – often prostitutes and the very poor – that Caravaggio used as models for his depictions of classic religious scenes; he describes what really happened during that fateful duel; and gives the most convincing account yet published of the extraordinary circumstances of Caravaggio’s death. At the heart of the book are Andrew Graham-Dixon’s readings of Caravaggio’s pictures; he shows how he created their drama, immediacy and humanity, and how completely he departed from the conventions of his time.


Caravaggio- A Life Sacred and Profane has been shortlisted for the Mash biography Award.

Caravaggio- A Life Sacred and Profane, was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction.

‘Caravaggio' was in the Sunday Times Top Ten Non fiction best sellers list for three consecutive weeks when it was released.

Click here to watch Andrew's program 'Who Killed Caravaggio'.

Click here to listen to Andrew talk about 'Caravaggio- A Life Sacred and Profane' on BBC Radio 3 'Night Waves', 'Front Row' and other radio programmes.

Read Andrew’s recent self interview about his book Caravaggio on thenervousbreakdown webstie - Click here

To read a review in the Washington Times Click Here

Click here to read Andrew's interview on Caravaggio and connoisseurship on the art history website Threepipeproblem. 

Caravaggio is now out in paperback. To order a copy please click here.

Caravaggio was released in the USA on 8 September 2011, published by Norton.



Hardcover: 514 pages
Publisher: Penguin (July 2010)
Language English
ISBN-13: 978-0-713-99674-6
Product Dimensions: 24 x 16 x 4.8 cm

"Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane gave me immense pleasure and provided constant delight.It is a thrilling lesson in the art of seeing, a sensual exploration of the shadows of Caravaggio's sometimes violent but always Christian world, a detective story with a highly satisfying ending. Andrew Graham-Dixon's ability to have a reader see a painting through written language is a rare and precious gift. The book's rigour and integrity are obvious. I trusted every word and was sorry to turn the final page."  (PETER CAREY)

''AG-D is a masterly art historian, not only steeped in his subject, but always alert, enthusiastic and contagiously curious......  This is what makes Graham-Dixon brilliant: he is able to look at a picture painted 400 years ago and extract from it all those meanings that have been obscured by time.'' (CRAIG BROWN, MAIL ON SUNDAY REVIEW)

''Graham-Dixon conveys the force of Caravaggio’s personality and the consequences of his art with a  brilliant grasp of detail.''  (CHARLES SAUMAREZ SMITH, TELEGRAPH REVIEW MAGAZINE)

''There have been other biographies of Caravaggio, but Andrew Graham-Dixon’s has to be the one to read. Impressively knowledgeable and well written.'' (CHRISTOPER HUDSON, BOOK OF THE WEEK, DAILY MAIL)

''Mr Graham-Dixon concentrates on the drama of the paintings. He avoids jargon in his writing and is an entertaining art historian, as shown by his popular television series on Spanish and Russian art, and by his weekly art criticism. He took ten years to come to terms with a very obdurate and highly original painter. Time well spent.''   (THE ECONOMIST)

''Graham-Dixon  writes expertly and eloquently about the paintings ..... but he is even better at bringing out the lurid detail of Caravaggio’s story.''  (CHARLES NICHOLL, SUNDAY TIMES, CULTURE MAGAZINE)

''As Graham-Dixon  dazzlingly illuminates , one can indeed understand a life through art-in this case a life that recreates a place in time-but astonishingly through his painting one might even see the world a little differently.'' (IAN KELLY, THE REVIEW)

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