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The Lost Painting [Paperback]

Jonathan Harr
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
Price: 9.51 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

7 Nov 2006
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-winning A Civil Action, The Lost Painting is 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.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 299 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade; Reprint edition (7 Nov 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375759867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375759864
  • Product Dimensions: 20.5 x 13.6 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 462,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Mr. F. Ledwidge VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
Jonathan Harr is a teacher of non-fiction writing, as well as having a fine pedigree as a writer himself and you can see why. This is a finely written and meticulously researched book about a fascinating topic, winding the story of Caravaggio himself into the detective story of how one of his lost paintings was brought to light.
The story of how the art historian 'heroes' of the piece tracked it down through the centuries, working independently is compelling. The individuals are all well-sketched and fairly presented and you do get a feel for their characters.
But the real hero of the book is the painting -'The Taking of Christ' You are left wondering how many other lost masterpieces are hanging in the shadows of old people's parlours or languishing long-forgotten in lofts throughout Europe.
The book provides an excellent window into the world of the art historian and is well worth its five stars.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
When I originally picked up this book, I mistakenly assumed that it was the latest page turner thriller about uncovering a lost painting. Only after about forty pages did it dawn on me that this was a nonfiction book written using fictional techniques to make the material more interesting.
Having been an art collector for many years and having spent time with many art scholars, I was impressed that Mr. Harr got it right. Lots of attention buzzes around whatever is hot in the art market, and everyone is looking to make a multimillion dollar discovery. Yet most of the people are working for a pittance in dusty archives or inadequate restoration laboratories. Above it all float those who are the recognized experts. Their proclamations hit everyone else like thunderbolts.
For those who don't know and love the art world, this book will probably be a bit of a disappointment. Although there is a lot of valuable art floating around, the stories behind it are more about tedious, hard work than about the world of the rich and famous.
To me, the book's main value was in its unending tongue in cheek humor in which the pretensions of everyone involved are regularly punctured by Mr. Harr's deft counter examples of all the mistakes they make.
I did grade the book down a bit because he romanticizes the story a lot more than it probably deserves. That makes the book a little longer than it needed to be. Also, I don't know much Italian and all the Italian phrases didn't do anything for me except make the book seem pretentious.
I also think the story is a bit slanted in the telling . . . making the original document research seem more important than it really was to the eventual discovery. The painting probably would have been identified eventually even without that work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Anyone who has seen a Caravaggio will never forget the experience. So when a friend emailed me about a Caravaggio, a 1602 painting that hung in the dining room of a Jesuit residence in Dublin, Ireland for nearly 60 years before its authentification, I knew I needed to read Harr's book.

Harr's dramatic work of narrative non-fiction begins in 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.

Along with Francesca, the reader 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. The year is 1992.

THE LOST PAINTING is indeed a "remarkable synthesis of history and detective story" and like any good detective story, difficult to put down.

(One can see the painting at Caravaggio.com along with its autograph companion ENTOMBMENT--the removal of Christ's body from the cross-- also painted in 1602. I saw ENTOMBMENT in 1984 at the Vatican Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Value 16 Jun 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Well worth the money and not too used, posted for free from USA! Have just started reading it and I expect it will be good
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By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
forget the da vinci code, this is a real life story of artists tracing a lost masterpeice through time. A very enjoyable read and a proper page turner.
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