Her landscapes are legendary. Her images and use of color, unforgettable. She captures the world in its most provocative moods with startling emotional power.
Diana Nicosia : The Caravaggio Contract
On the evening of October 14, author Diana Nicosia held a book signing for her premier novel, The Caravaggio Contract, at Axelle Boston’s beautiful new location at 173 Newbury Street. The book is based in the art world so the gallery was the perfect choice for this event. The story, set in the streets of Italy in the 1980’s, is based on a series of paintings by Baroque master Caravaggio that disappeared over 400 years ago. Published by Merrimack Media, The Caravaggio Contract is an ambitious debut novel at the crossroads of history and fiction. The author recently took the time to share some background on her new book and why she is such an avid supporter of Axelle.
Axelle Fine Arts: Can you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you become both a painter and author?
Diana Nicosia: For twenty years, I lived and painted in Tuscany, where I became intrigued with the story of Caravaggio’s mysterious death and the disappearance of his paintings. The prologue is an overview of Caravaggio’s dramatic and violent life and then the story, a work of fiction, jumps to Italy in 1985. I have been a professional fine artist for most of my adult life. Creative writing is an avocation. I have a special interest in writing mysteries set in Italy.
I maintain studios in Boston and Gulf Stream, Florida and take frequent trips to Italy.
AFA: Can you summarize your debut novel, The Caravaggio Contract?
DN: The Caravaggio Contract is based on a real life mystery—the missing paintings of the great Baroque artist, Caravaggio. The story begins in 1985 when, after 400 years, one of Caravaggio’s famed missing paintings turns up in a warehouse owned by Sergio Celesti, a Roman antiques dealer. How Sergio obtains the painting, and where it disappears for a second time, is at the heart of the mystery. The search moves swiftly from Positano to glamorous Capri, then to the sinister streets of Naples and eventually to Rome where Sergio’s widow, Fiona, tries to stay one step ahead of the Camorra. It is a story of love, familial jealousy, murder, a criminal network of drug distribution and the Knights of Malta.
AFA: The Caravaggio Contract is based on a true historical mystery. How did you come to learn about this story? What about it pulled you in?
DN: In the late ‘90s, I was fortunate to be invited to paint in the private gardens of the Vatican. One summer weekend I had visitors from the Vatican to my studio in Ansedonia, on the coast of Tuscany. They were struck by the view—the studio overlooked the beach where Caravaggio collapsed and died. I then learned how the original documents, a description of two paintings and a signed contract by Pope Paul V, were preserved in the Vatican archives.
Why did Caravaggio, the most famous artist in Italy, die alone under mysterious circumstances? Why was he traveling from Naples to Rome and died in a small, frontier town in Tuscany? Why did all of his possessions, including the ten commissioned paintings in the hold of the boat, disappear at his death? What drove this brilliant but tormented artist to take such risks with his life? All of these questions intrigued me and pulled me into his story. I was also inspired to write a novel about Italy in the 1980s.
AFA: Where can you purchase your book?
AFA: You are hosting your book signing at Axelle Fine Arts on Newbury Street; why did you choose this venue for your event?
DN: I love Axelle! I enjoyed the shows I’ve attended in the past. Mitch Plotkin, gallery director, is well informed about the international contemporary art scene and has a thorough knowledge of each gallery artist. Mitch has encouraged authors, musicians and artisans to have special shows at Axelle.
AFA: You are currently working on the sequel to The Caravaggio Contract. What can readers expect from your next book?
DN: The sequel, The Key to Caravaggio, will be published in 12-18 months. Fiona is again embroiled in a murder mystery and the fast paced search moves from Rome to Florence and finally to Capri.