The idea of this blog is to facilitate the love of reading by collecting news about new books, or sometimes good old books. It is also dedicated to stamping out the scourge of e-books, Kindles, Kobo's, i-Pads, and all other such abominations.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr

In 1994, Jonathan Harr had just completed but not published his wildly successful book A Civil Action. Finding himself out of money, he accepted an assignment to write a piece for the New York Times, telling the story of the recovery of a Caravaggio painting, "The Taking of Christ" that had been missing for 200 years. Harr was so taken with the story that he decided to pursue it in more depth. He returned to Italy, studied Italian and began to put the pieces together. The result is The Lost Painting. And what a wonderful exploration of the art world it is. I don't know much about art but I am interested in all things Italian. Harr brings to the book, a portrait of the tempermental and sometimes violent Caraveggio, who roamed the streets
of Rome, drinking and carousing, often causing a great deal of trouble. He has been identified by some as the first "realist" painter. The people in his religious paintings are the people you would have found in the streets at the time. He invented the dark background with a single source of light outside the painting. Very few of his paintings remain so finding a lost one is of tremendous importance to the art world.

Francesca Cappeletti, a young art researcher from Rome, working with her friend and colleague Laura Testa, were researching two identical copies of "John the Baptist" trying to identify the authentic one. While examining archives in a dank palazzio belonging to the Antici-Mattei family, they stumbled on a clue as to the origins of another Caravaggio "The Taking of Christ".

Harr takes us from the Roman world of Caravaggio to libraries in London and Scotland and finally to a small gallery in Dublin. He brings to life the personalities of the important people in the story: Francesca Cappeletti who doggedly follows clue after clue; Sir Denis Mahon, an elderly, English art historian who provides important information and help to Francesca; and finally Sergio Beneditti, an Italian art restorer working in the Art Gallery of Dublin. As well, the author gives us an insight into the world of art, its politics and jealousies. The book reads like detective fiction. Proving a painting is authentic is an onerous task. Whether you are an expert in art history or a novice you will find it is impossible to put this book down once you have dipped into it.


Anonymous lonelybookworm said...

This lost painting theme is getting popular isn't it? Wasn't there at least one novel about a lost Vermeer lately? He's another amazing old master who doesn't have many works extant. But this sounds like non-fiction. What a neat find. I'm placing my order with Abe right now. Thank you once more.

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