The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece

by Jonathan Harr
4.1 23

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Overview

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781588364890
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/25/2005
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 244,408
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Jonathan Harr is the author of the national bestseller A Civil Action, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. He is a former staff writer at the New England Monthly and has written for The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine. He lives and works in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he has taught nonfiction writing at Smith College.

To schedule a speaking engagement, please contact American Program Bureau at www.apbspeakers.com  


From the Hardcover edition.

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Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up The Lost Painting on the basis of preview reviews and the fact that A Civil Action was so well written. This title, nonfiction as well, does not disappoint. The reader gets a clear view of art history, Caravaggio, and art restoration. I found myself staying up much longer than I should and am glad I found a book that I was completely immersed in.
eagle3tx More than 1 year ago
Nonfiction, art history. Primary source research and blind luck lead to finding a Caravaggio masterpiece missing for 400 years. Thoroughly researched by author as to politics in the art world and the individuals involved in the discovery, plus a lot of technical info on art restoration and an unfolding puzzle of documentation. I enjoyed the sheer perseverance and meticulous work involved.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unable to put it down.
ctothep More than 1 year ago
I don't know what some of these reviewers were reading but this was really disappointing. At points it read like a teen fiction novel with the pointless tidbits about Luciano... More facts and less about Francesca and Luciano... I mean please. Had you told me it was from the same author of A Civil Action I wouldn't believe you. 2.5 stars rounded up to 3.
TJ-New-Orleans More than 1 year ago
I had to keep reminding myself that this was not a fictional thriller, but a true adventure through the art world and it's many social layers and incredible characters. Jonathan Harr is a great writer and I can't wait for the next little corner of the world he chooses to expose.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have studied some painting reservation classes for fun during my years as an architecture student. This book brings to life many fascinating details and lovely characters. If you love art history, pick this book up for an easy read:) I had a lot of fun reading it. Not quite a 5 stars book, but it is well deserved of 4.5 stars (if I can give a half of a star more).
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Fantastic book full of insight into the world of art. Highly recommend.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author of this very well-written book wants to present a seamless detective story about the discovery of a lost Caravaggio painting. His material, however, prevents him from doing so. The problem is that there are two separate plot lines which have very little to do with one another. And that, despite his best efforts, prevents him from building up suspense and arriving at a truly satisfying denouement.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The plot is about the paintstaking process researchers go through to find a lost painting and the pace of this book is just as painfully slow. I finished it, but had to force myself to just keep reading. It reads like a novel, but it is a true story of researchers looking for a lost painting, the search requires, careful attention to detail, hours posting through the dead scrolls of family archives, if this sounds exciting to you, then go for it....don't be fooled by the back of the jacket or the reviews, you really don't learn anything about the artist, other than the fact his life wasn't that exciting, the lives of his researchers aren't that exciting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought the book based on a book review I read in the Boston Globe. This was a decent read,it goes by fast, but I've read better. As I said in my headline, I wouldn't believe this book took 10 years to write. I would think a decades worth of research would fill up more than 264 pages. The ending is somewhat anti-climatic as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a must for anyone who loves or is knowledgeable about art or an amature art historian. Mr. Harr does an superb job of educating while entertaining. The book is a fast paced ADVENTURE and modern-day TREASURE HUNT! The discriptions of Rome and the many 'usual suspects' made me feel as though I were right beside the author as he investigated this fast paced, fascinating tale. This is truely a book you will want to get multiple copies of to give to others. It's left me eagerly awaiting Mr. Harr's next investigative adventure!
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the most well-written novels I've read in a long time. Unfortunately though, I don't see how this story will captivate America with anything but a good title. I picked up this book and thought I would immerse myself into the underworld of art, political dealings (they're there but not dramatic), and most importantly a fast gripping read. Unfortunately this book does not offer that. So in conclusion don't read this book unless you're a dedicated reader with nowhere to go.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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