It's May 2006 and there I was, in the overwhelmingly ornate setting of St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta, gazing around at totally over-the-top Baroque baroqueness, at paintings of holy knights with cynical eyes, of saints like wise and grizzled old men, and angels resembling pretty pudgy-faced teens without the acne, and a What If sneaked into my head.
What If one of those long ago artists - Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio, perhaps - saw an angel whose features were so far away from his accepted norm of male beauty he had to paint them.
What If, centuries later, a man - 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?
It took a while before I fashioned the What If into a story, but that was the initial spark of an idea that eventually became Caravaggio's Angel, and this is the face that Caravaggio and Paul saw:
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.
~ * ~
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.
On General Release April 25th.