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The Lost Painting

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  18,094 Ratings  ·  746 Reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 271 pages
Published November 18th 2005 by Random House (NY) (first published 2005)
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Jul 28, 2008 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Absurdly readable, this book is candy for anyone who loves or appreciates the scavenger hunt of archival historical research. If you are particularly into Italian history, this book is the equivalent of a snickers bar perfectly cooled in the refrigerator.

If you feel meh about the tedious, meticulous process of historical research, despite its finally coming together in spectacularly satisfying ways, you will really really really not like this book. I mean, seriously, don't bother. Because that i
Ron Palmer
It's like The DaVinci Code, only well-written and true! In other words, it's nothing like the DaVinci Code. Harr personalizes the dry world of academic art historians as best he can, by following the principals in this story of a 'lost' Carravaggio recently-found in
Ireland. I cannot go so far as to say he 'spices it up,' so the appeal of this book may be limited to art lovers only.
Mar 23, 2008 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Wow! It's been so long since I have read a book that dominated my thoughts for a couple of days; a book that I thought was amazing. Luckily for me I just read The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr. Jonathan Harr is mostly known for writing A Civil Action, which I enjoyed, but didn't find that it left me breathless the way that The Lost Painting did. The painting referred to in the title is The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio. Until the early 90s copies of the painting had been found, but the origina ...more
Aug 18, 2008 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a trained art historian hardened and cynical because of books like the Da Vinci Code, I wasn't expecting too much from this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. First of all, it is not a novel, although written to appeal to a reader's sense of "story." If you like Caravaggio, art restoration, seventeenth-century art history, or want a taste of how petty the scholarly art world can be, do give this book a look. If those kinds of intrigues are NOT up your alley, the style of this book may help ...more
May 08, 2015 Chris rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who think women are there to look pretty
Shelves: art, ick-attack

I haven’t read A Civil Action, and quite frankly after reading this book I never want to read anything by Harr.

1. I don’t care that Francesca answered the phone wearing a towel and with wet hair. I don’t care about her thighs. Why do you keep telling me these things?

2. Why is so much space give to Francesca’s love life but only 3 pages, less than half, given to what Laura did at the same time? Isn’t Laura more important at this point since she is, you know, actually advancing the needed knowled
Jun 12, 2014 Janebbooks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Almost a mystery, certainly a drama: THE HUNT FOR A LOST CARAVAGGIO

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
Jan 20, 2015 Petra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I really enjoy a book set in the art world. I like the mystery, the sleuthing, the restorations and the thrill of finding masterpieces that have lain hidden for hundreds of years.
This is an account based on the finding of a lost Caravaggio painting, The Taking Of Christ. I looked the painting up and was amazed at the reality and detail of it. It could be a photograph.
If I could live another life, I'd love to be an art world sleuth, digging through the layers to find and restore the beauty of t
Sep 09, 2014 Alger rated it it was ok
Really a 1.51. A swing and a miss. A book I liked far more for the topic than the presentation.

Let me explain. This is a book about a topic I really care about, and Harr is an author whose style I would otherwise relish. It is the combination of the two in this volume that I truly dislike. The discovery of Caravaggio 's The Taking of Christ is presented in two parallel narratives, each with its tensions when read separately. Yet Harr is unable to make those stories meet on any level except that
Non è una sola storia, come fa sospettare il titolo: non è solo quella del ritrovamento a Dublino della Cattura di Cristo, un "Caravaggio" di cui si erano perse le tracce. Tutta la prima metà del libro è infatti un’altra storia a sé, altrettanto "curiosa" e interessante: il confronto tra due San Giovanni Battista romani, apparentemente identici, quello conservato alla Galleria Doria Pamphilj e quello rinvenuto in tempi molto recenti e oggi esposto ai Musei Capitolini. Ho avuto come l’impressione ...more
Dec 04, 2009 Kathleen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Caravaggio and his art and get a chance to see his paintings in Italy
Recommended to Kathleen by: Boston Globe and New York Times
For my trip to Italy, I picked up this book - recommended by both the Boston Globe and NY Times. The author of The Civil Action - a great read. The lost painting is "The Taking of Christ" - an account of how, in 1990, the original was found. One of the key people is Francesca Cappelletti, a 24-year old graduate student at the University of Rome. She cites a church in Rome that owns Caravaggio paintings - three paintings about St. Matthew. We visited this church to see the paintings - tucked in a ...more
Oct 10, 2012 S©aP rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arte
Se un testo inglese ha un unico autore e due traduttori; se la sua prima parte risulta resa in un italiano sciatto e irritante, quasi illegibile, mentre la seconda fila via bene, il sospetto che uno dei due traduttori abbia sbagliato mestiere è forte. Anche la misura dei "tempi" e dei "modi" dell'editoria, oggi, è più chiara e percepibile.
L'argomento è interessantissimo, e attuale, viste le recenti celebrazioni dei 400 anni dalla morte del sommo pittore milanese. La storia dei retroscena che po
Ryan Louis
Have you ever read a "popular book" (i.e., a bestseller) with an intended audience so niche it actually gets stuck in a demographic ditch? This is the poster book for that effect. A book so enthralled with minutiae it should contain a warning from the surgeon general, "Note: unless an art history major, do not listen to this book-on-cd while operating a motor vehicle."

I did enjoy parts of it--especially the section about art preservation and repair. FASCINATING stuff. But then again, I'm a huge
Jun 27, 2013 Tiffaney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is, apparently, a real account of the discovery of one of the lost Caravaggio paintings. I went into this thinking it was merely historical fiction, so that was a nice surprise. The author does not change the names of the major players, and talks about his interviews with them. He also gives a great bibliography, complete with books and articles written by those involved in the discovery. It reads a lot like simple historical fiction, but was enjoyable.
Feb 01, 2016 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art
35. THE LOST PAINTING: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece. (2005). Jonathan Harr. ***1/2.
This was the second book by this author; his first being the highly successful “A Civil Action.” In this tale, he creates a true-to-life mystery story that revolves around a missing masterpiece from a master from the Italian Baroque, Caravaggio. The painting in question was titled, “The Taking of Christ,” a depiction of Judas’ betrayal of Christ in a garden. Actually, it was not believed to be missing. T
Michael Gerald
May 03, 2016 Michael Gerald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book that started as an article in the Reader's Digest in 1995, this is a fascinating true detective story of how a graduate student and a brilliant art restorer discovered a painting made by Caravaggio.
Jeff Jellets
Jul 28, 2016 Jeff Jellets rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history

Art history for the common reader.

I know absolutely nothing about art.

Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello, and Raphael are more familiar to me as ninja turtles than Italian artisans, but Johnathan Harr’s The Lost Painting is a literary treat even for an absolute philistine like me. Harr’s hunt for a long lost masterpiece by Italian painter Caravaggio is as much detective story as it is art history, populated by a cast of students, scholars and art restorers who are every bit as zealous and secret
An interesting blend of art history and detective story, author Jonathan Harr focuses on the handful of scholars, including two students, who found evidence of the lost painting in question, Caravaggio's "The Taking of Christ." He concentrates most of all on Francesca Capelletti, who along with another art history, Laura Testa, was most responsible for doing the tedious legwork of tracking what had happened to the lost painting. Another man, an art restorer working at the National Gallery in Dub ...more
Oct 18, 2010 Raina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! It's been so long since I have read a book that dominated my thoughts for a couple of days; a book that I thought was amazing. Luckily for me I just read The Lost Painting. The painting referred to in the title is The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio. Until the early 90’s copies of the painting had been found, but the original painting had disappeared. Had it been destroyed, or was it lying in an attic somewhere, forgotten? The book follows several people, the octogenarian pre-eminent Caravag ...more
Feb 28, 2014 Slmcmahon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I suppose every art historian dreams of finding a lost masterpiece. Stories abound of valuable, artistically and monetarily, at garage sales, in dusty attics and many other unlikely places.

This story centers on a painting by Caravaggio of whose work only about 80 paintings are known and accepted as originals. Caravaggio was very significant at the beginning of the Baroque period, roughly the early years of the 17th century. His paintings were prized and notorious for the portrayal of his subject
Greg Z
I could only laugh when Harr writes: "Sixty scudi seemed a rather small sum for Caravaggio, but then 'St. John' , after all, depicted just a single figure." I certainly hope this is the voice of the two Nancy Drew-like college investigators and not the voice of the author. How many figures are in the world's most famous work of art (Mona Lisa) of the world's most famous sculpture (David)? Anyway, I closed the book and took it back to the library about a fourth of the way through. If I want to re ...more
Feb 15, 2009 Matt rated it liked it
Harr's book is an account of the recovery of a Caravaggio painting, "The Taking of Christ," that had been missing for several centuries. Various copies of the painting existed throughout the world, but all Caravaggio scholars in the world agreed that none were done by Caravaggio's hands. The Lost Painting traces the discovery of the original painting, following two Italian art history scholars and a painting conservator as they all but stumble upon it.

It's a fascinating topic, but Harr does it a
Sep 01, 2011 JoLee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, 2011, non-fiction
Jonathan Harr's The Lost Painting chronicles the events leading to the discovery, in 1993, of a lost painting by Caravaggio, The Taking of Christ. Scholars had known of the painting and many copies existed, yet Caravaggio's original canvas was lost for hundreds of years.

I know I am an art history nerd, but I found this book incredible suspenseful even though almost all the big discoveries were unearthed in archives (tedious work). The book recounts the con
Adrian Stumpp
Aug 29, 2009 Adrian Stumpp rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history, art
This book gets 3 stars because Caravaggio went through all the trouble of living a fascinating life. Harr wrote a 2 star book about him. I chose to split the difference.
For those not familiar with the life of Renaissance artist Michelangelo di Caravaggio, this is a passable lintroduction. Harr has an ambitious narrative device but fails to pull it off. The style blends the staid authority of non-fiction writing with the immediacy of narrative, complete with characterization, scenery, and even pl
Jim Parker
Jul 14, 2016 Jim Parker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved Jonathan Harr's "The Lost Painting," and not just because it represented the first non-political non-fiction I've read in months.

Although a true story, the book has the dramatic intensity of thoughtful, well-crafted fiction as it traces the complex (and often serendipitous) meshing of steps required to discover, recover, and authenticate a long-lost 1602 Baroque masterpiece by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, "The Taking of Christ."

I'd write more praises but, since I'm one-finger typin
Sep 30, 2009 Don rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A belligerent baroque artist, an old art history expert, an art restorer in Dublin, a missing painting for hundreds of years and 2 young art history students in Rome hot on the trail of some new information - and you have a formula for what reads as CSI: Art World.

In actuality, this book reads much like a CSI episode following the path to find the missing painting of Caravaggio called The Taking of Christ. Painted in 1602 the original went missing some years later - but with the twist that many
My friend Judi gave this book to me in the act of clearing out her shelves, so I came into it with no expectations about anything. I was totally riveted from the start. I didn't even realize it was non-fiction until some of the scholars' names started sounding very familiar. It reads well as a story either way, but once I knew it was a true story, I was even more hooked. I would probably rate this book higher than some people may think it deserves simply because I just couldn't put it down. I al ...more
Jan 04, 2010 salinthebay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art-history
An art historian friend who is doing research on Titian, recommended this book to me knowing that I am a lover of Caravaggio et al. I was apprehensive at first wondering if it was going the way of the Da Vinci Code, but was delighted to discover it did not. It is for real!

The Lost Painting is exactly what the title depicts - the lost 17th century painting, The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio, its discovery in an SJ Irish abbey and its restoration a the National Gallery of Ireland. Sounds like a t
Apr 10, 2008 Nancy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Poor Jonathon Harr! While this book was interesting, it in no way was even close to "A Civil Action". Now I know that was a really tough act to follow and he really tried to make it suspenseful but you really can't get the same drama from a book about a painting as you can from a cancer cluster killing people and the evil industry polluting the water supply. It was interesting in that, and I can't believe I am admitting this, I had never heard of Caravaggio. Now of course I read that name everyw ...more
Apr 13, 2010 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book had me on the edge of my seat right up until the Ireland chapters at the end. (Reading about Irish Jesuit priests is kind of a turn-off. Thanks, Fordham!)

Jesuits aside, I would highly recommend this book for art lovers, history buffs, fans of Caravaggio, those who enjoy reading detailed recollections, and mysteries. It's a truly, incredibly, finely detailed retelling of how a handful of people tracked down a painting lost to time.

There were some passages about academic squabbling that
Eugenea Pollock
May 12, 2016 Eugenea Pollock rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Years ago when, as an undergrad, I majored in Art History, one of my favorite painters of the Italian Baroque style was Caravaggio; and even today, I can recall how I felt when my professor projected on the screen in a huge lecture hall "The Conversion of Saint Paul on the Road to Damascus." So this book about the treasure hunt for a lost Caravaggio masterpiece was, for me, irresistible. And it lived up to my expectations totally. I especially enjoyed reading about the contribution of the two gr ...more
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Jonathan Harr is an American writer, best known for A Civil Action.
Harr was born in Beloit, Wisconsin. His sister, Cynthia Lauwers, lives in North Andover, Massachusetts. He lives and works in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he has taught nonfiction writing at Smith College. He is a former staff writer at New England Monthly and has written for The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine. Har
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