Of all Italian painters, Caravaggio (c 1565-1609) speaks most intensely to the modern world. Helen Langdon uncovers his progress from childhood in plague-ridden Milan to wild success in Rome, where he moved between the worlds of powerful patrons and rich cardinals, and the violent street life of boys and prostitutes. He was involved in brawls, in scandals all his life and argument still rages as to whether he was homosexual or bisexual - finally at the height of his fame, he killed a rival gang-leader in a scuffle and was forced to flee into exile in Naples. From there he went to Malta, to the strange enclosed world of the Knights of St John, and then to Sicily. Constantly evading his pursuers, bailed out by his patrons, and struggling to return to Rome, he died, perhaps murdered, in a lonely fortress on the coast. This biography brings the heady world of Counter-Reformation Italy vividly to life, but it also sheds new light on Caravaggio's art, his startling realism and his peculiar, powerful blend of the sensual and the spiritual. Fully illustrated in colour and black and white - an epoch making study.