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Monday, April 27, 2015

Angels among us

Many years ago I fell in love with Malta in general and Valletta in particular. I've visited it three times now, and fully intend to go again when I can force myself onto a plane. The history packed into one small limestone outcrop in the Mediterranean is truly mindblowing, and I knew I had to set at least one story there.

 

So there I was, in the overwhelmingly ornate setting of St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta, gazing around at over-the-top Baroque baroqueness, at paintings of holy knights with cynical eyes, of saints looking like wise and grizzled old men, and angels resemblingpretty pudgy-faced teens without the acne. Among them are some incredibly powerful paintings by one Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio. He'd been commissioned by the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller of St John, to create what are now world-famous works of art. As I gazed up at themWhat Ifsneaked into my head.

 

Caravaggio had a tempestuous time on Malta. Well, to be honest, he had a tempestuous time no matter where he went. The man had a reputation for wild living, and was imprisoned more than once for brawling and drunkenness. At one time, the Pope issued a death warrant for him, on a charge of murder. His visit to Malta was probably a way of ducking out of Italy until the heat cooled off. But What if he saw someone whose features were so far away from his accepted norm of male beauty he had to paint them.

 

What If, centuries later, an American - let's call him Paul - inherited that painting.

 

What If Paul saw a passing stranger in a crowd and that man had the exact same face? 

 

That was the initial spark of an idea that eventually became Caravaggio's Angel.

 



Blurb for Caravaggio’s Angel:

 

A seventeenth-century artwork, a portfolio of canvases and a gorgeous man no one seems to notice— Add in a jealous brother and a scheming stranger, and Paul has inherited trouble.

 

Paul is estranged from his family, and inherits property on Malta from his artist great-uncle Lawrenz Calleja. It includes a portfolio of canvases Lawrenz painted over the decades, and an artwork that might be a seventeenth-century piece in the style of Caravaggio, but is more likely a symptom of his great-uncle’s obsession—the same man appears in every painting. Paul has grown up knowing that face, the man Lawrenz called Angelo. When he meets someone who matches the image exactly, Paul is hooked. Their friendship rapidly deepens into love.

Angelo is in exile on the island of Malta—he has to learn compassion and love before he can return to his Father’s house. But he learns the lessons too well, and that proves dangerous. Nico has watched him for a long time, waiting for just this moment, when Angelo is at his most vulnerable. Nico gains an ally when Paul’s brother, Calvin, arrives in Malta. Calvin is convinced Paul inherited a fortune and is determined to claim a share of it. But the battle between Angelo and Nico is far more than it seems and the Calleja brothers are in danger of becoming collateral damage.

 

Excerpt from Caravaggio’s Angel:

 

Paul gazed up at the face in the painting and sighed. Like his great-uncle, he would never tire of studying a countenance very much to his taste. The appeal had grown with every passing year, exponentially so as he had discovered and come to terms with his sexuality. Seeing it again was like meeting a friend he’d known all his life.

 

The unknown model hadn’t been the plump-faced pretty androgyne so often featured in Caravaggio’s work. By the standards of male beauty in the artist’s time, the man was not handsome. But the proud-boned features framed in a shoulder-length tangle of black hair were real. Eyes so blue their color seared, gazed from beneath frowning brows arched like a falcon’s wing. The level glare was fixed on a point above the viewer’s line of sight, and Paul always fancied he could read accusation there. Why did you allow this…? The full, perfectly shaped mouth was set in anger and sorrow. In his clenched fists he held a cream-colored robe, splashed with blood. Gilded by diffused light, wings of iridescent black feathers were mantled, protecting the robe or whoever had worn it.

 

This was no adoring angel, soulful and acquiescent to God’s will. That fierce gaze challenged as well as mourned. 

 

Lawrenz Calleja had always maintained the painting was a section removed from a much larger picture depicting the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, cut away because Caravaggio had refused to paint over it. He’d seen a letter from one of the artist’s patrons, or so he asserted. The writer had complained that Caravaggio was impossible—temperamental—unwilling to bow to the wishes of the one paying for his talent. Rather than change the offending section he had snatched up a knife and cut it away. 

 

About Chris Quinton:

 

Chris started creating stories not long after she mastered joined-up writing, somewhat to the bemusement of her parents and her English teachers. But she received plenty of encouragement. Her dad gave her an already old Everest typewriter when she was ten, and it was probably the best gift she'd ever received—until the inventions of the home—computer and the worldwide web.

Chris's reading and writing interests range from historical, mystery, and paranormal, to science-fiction and fantasy, writing mostly in the male/male genre. She also writes male/female novels in the name of Chris Power. She refuses to be pigeon-holed and intends to uphold the long and honourable tradition of the Eccentric Brit to the best of her ability. In her spare time (hah!) she embroiders, quilts and knits. Over the years she has been a stable lad (briefly) in a local racing stable and stud, a part-time and unpaid amateur archaeologist, a civilian clerk at her local police station and a 15th century re-enactor.

She lives in a small and ancient city in the south-west of the United Kingdom, sharing her usually chaotic home with an extended family, currently only one large dog, a frilled dragon [lizard], three psychotic mice and sundry goldfish.

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