Joseph Luzzi

  • Dark Knight of the Soul

    Toward the end of his life, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610) entered a Sicilian church and was offered holy water. Caravaggio asked what good the blessing would do, and was told it would cancel his venial sins. “Then it is no use,” he replied, “because mine are all mortal.” Like most information about Caravaggio, this account may be a half-truth, if not an outright myth. But it captures a sense of the painter’s defiant character and resigned fatalism, and hints at the source of his intransigent aesthetic vision. In a portrait of Saint John the Baptist (painted soon before Caravaggio

  • Unblurred Melody

    Giacomo Leopardi may be the most erudite, philosophically astute, and linguistically refined poet you’ve never heard of. Part of the blame lies in Leopardi’s historically inclined vocabulary and style, which draw heavily on Greco-Roman authors ranging from Theocritus to Virgil as well as early Italian masters, especially the fourteenth-century Tuscan poet who was the preeminent model for Renaissance lyric, Francis Petrarch. But Leopardi was no antiquarian: His synthesis of past literary forms and experimental poetics makes his work a daunting mix of erudition and inventiveness. It would be an