The year is 1604 and Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is a superstar, his blockbuster paintings packing the pews of Rome. Caravaggio should be thriving, but the artistic trailblazer and nefarious street-brawler is his own worst enemy. He is a man at existential odds with himself, careening down a path of self-destruction, testing the patience of his aristocratic patrons.
Caravaggio's best self emerges upon falling in love with Lena Antognetti, the prostitute modeling his newest Virgin pictures. Caravaggio paints Lena into a life of wealth and celebrity, but the power couple's provocative fame earns them a horde of resentful and jealous enemies, including her politically connected pimp. Caravaggio desecrates the Italian peninsula, dueling mercenaries, cops, and knights in attempt to satisfy and protect Lena. With the help of his loyal apprentice and part-time lover, Cecco, Caravaggio paints himself into the good graces of those who can legally and spiritually absolve his crimes of passion.
I, Caravaggio is a historical novel narrated in a contemporary voice that dramatizes Caravaggio's psychological unraveling under the sexual and political pressures of the Catholic Reformation.