The Lost Painting

The Lost Painting

Book - 2005
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An Italian village on a hilltop near the Adriatic coast, a decaying palazzo facing the sea, and in the basement, cobwebbed and dusty, lit by a single bulb, an archive unknown to scholars. Here, a young graduate student from Rome, Francesca Cappelletti, makes a discovery that inspires a search for a work of art of incalculable value, a painting lost for almost two centuries. The artist was Caravaggio, a master of the Italian Baroque. He was a genius, a revolutionary painter, and a man beset by personal demons. Four hundred years ago, he drank and brawled in the taverns and streets of Rome, moving from one rooming house to another, constantly in and out of jail, all the while painting works of transcendent emotional and visual power. He rose from obscurity to fame and wealth, but success didn't alter his violent temperament. His rage finally led him to commit murder, forcing him to flee Rome a hunted man. He died young, alone, and under strange circumstances. Caravaggio scholars estimate that between sixty and eighty of his works are in existence today. Many others--no one knows the precise number--have been lost to time. Somewhere, surely, a masterpiece lies forgotten in a storeroom, or in a small parish church, or hanging above a fireplace, mistaken for a mere copy. Prizewinning author Jonathan Harr embarks on an spellbinding journey to discover the long-lost painting known as The Taking of Christ--its mysterious fate and the circumstances of its disappearance have captivated Caravaggio devotees for years. After Francesca Cappelletti stumbles across a clue in that dusty archive, she tracks the painting across a continent and hundreds of years of history. But it is not until she meets Sergio Benedetti, an art restorer working in Ireland, that she finally manages to assemble all the pieces of the puzzle. Told with consummate skill by the writer of the bestselling, award-winningA Civil Action,The Lost Paintingis a remarkable synthesis of history and detective story. The fascinating details of Caravaggio's strange, turbulent career and the astonishing beauty of his work come to life in these pages. Harr's account is not unlike a Caravaggio painting: vivid, deftly wrought, and enthralling. ". . . Jonathan Harr has gone to the trouble of writing what will probably be a bestseller . . . rich and wonderful. . .in truth, the book reads better than a thriller because, unlike a lot of best-selling nonfiction authors who write in a more or less novelistic vein (Harr's previous book,A Civil Action, was made into a John Travolta movie), Harr doesn't plump up hi tale. He almost never foreshadows, doesn't implausibly reconstruct entire conversations and rarely throws in litanies of clearly conjectured or imagined details just for color's sake. . .if you're a sucker for Rome, and for dusk. . .[you'll] enjoy Harr's more clearly reported details about life in the city, as when--one of my favorite moments in the whole book--Francesca and another young colleague try to calm their nerves before a crucial meeting with a forbidding professor by eating gelato. And who wouldn't in Italy? The pleasures of travelogue here are incidental but not inconsiderable." --The New York Times Book Review "Jonathan Harr has taken the story of the lost painting, and woven from it a deeply moving narrative about history, art and taste--and about the greed, envy, covetousness and professional jealousy of people who fall prey to obsession. It is as perfect a work of narrative nonfiction as you could ever hope to read." --The Economist From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: New York : Random House, 2005.
ISBN: 9780375508011
Characteristics: 271 p. ;,24 cm.


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Jul 13, 2017

Just what the reading doctor ordered. NF about the search for a 'lost' painting done by Caravaggio, one of the most enigmatic Italian artists. Two art history grad students get to rummage through obscure public and private archives researching two copies of the same painting when a third one pops up in Ireland. Great stuff, and it is all true.

WVMLStaffPicks Jan 22, 2015

The mystery of a lost painting, one completed by Caravaggio four centuries ago, follows a fascinating detective trail through time and place. Johnathan Harr managed to entice me into his true tale of the search for this masterpiece, The Taking of Christ. It reveals how dedicated art historians can be when they are on the track of something big, and this was big.

Compelling, true story full of mystery about a lost Caravaggio painting and the characters involved are so different and intriguing. My book group loved it and it made for a great discussion.

Feb 03, 2012

I found this book atmospheric and gripping. Of course, having studied art history for half a century and taught it for over three decades, it's right up my alley. Devoured The Lost Painting in one sitting. For me, it had the characteristics of a first-rate detective novel with the added frisson of knowing the players actually exist and the event really took place. Caravaggio, himself, is a compelling and enigmatic figure, and the provenance of the lost painting, obscure. And I loved characters like the chain-smoking, dithery marchesa re-organizing the family archive (and effectively destroying it in the process); the meticulous Italophilic art historian, Denis Mahon (ninety-five when the volume was published), who lives in Rome but can't stand to be embraced (must be a constant battle) and flies around the world to speak at conferences; and the disgruntled, secretive restorer who recovers the masterpiece and undergoes a personality change.

htsmusicmaven Apr 22, 2011

Great true story that reads like a novel. Full of mystery and intrigue.

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