The Lost Painting
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The Lost Painting

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  9,703 ratings  ·  585 reviews
Art History and a detective story intertwined in a masterful and intriguing story that begins when a young graduate student from Rome makes a discovery that inspires a search for a work of Caravaggio's that had been lost for almost two centuries.
Hardcover, 271 pages
Published October 25th 2005 by Random House (first published 2005)
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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...more
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
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.
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
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...more
Dec 04, 2009 Kathleen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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
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
Nelson Zagalo
"Una cosa tremenda"! É assim que este livro começa por referir o entusiasmo dos historiadores de arte nas suas buscas arqueológicas por quadros desaparecidos. E é assim que termino ao ler este livro, com uma sensação de gratidão para com o autor, que colocou em poucas páginas, de uma forma tão escorreita, em formato de romance, todo o trabalho levado a cabo na busca e descoberta de uma obra emblemática de Caravaggio, "A Captura de Cristo".

No blog:
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...more
Adrian Stumpp
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...more
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
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...more
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
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...more
This audiobook tells of the discovery of a lost Caravaggio painting in Dublin, Ireland during the early 1990s. It is a fascinating tale both for it sun likeliness and the complicated history of the artwork. "The Taking of Christ" is a significant and beautiful work, and in retrospect one wonders how it could disappear in plain sight, so to speak. The description in the book of how researchers uncover an artworks provenance is particularly intriguing to the uninitiated. The least attractive part...more
The positive :
As an admirer of art and an elementary art history student I found this book to be informative as well as a good read. I appreciate a well written book full of intimate character knowledge. The limited information available about the Italian masterpiece could be explained scientifically on a single page or two, but Harr goes to great literary lengths in painting a scene at every stage of the relationships behind the necessary research needed to verify such a monumental discovery. T...more
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...more
Anne Van
This is the story about the discovery of a lost Caravaggio painting, with very interesting tangents about art restoration, art historians, conferences and rivalries. I read this thinking this novel reads just like non-fiction, like a long New Yorker piece. It was only when I was reading the afterword, with the author thanking all the people who helped with the book, that duh, I realized the book was non-fiction! It's a good read, particularly as it's a true story!
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.
An enjoyable book about the search for one of the missing Caravaggio paintings, The Taking of Christ. Jonathan Harr writes an intriguing tale using fiction devices to tell this real life story of art detective work. There are several people profiled in the book and instead of just providing the steps they took in their research and work, Harr includes many details about their personal life. While unnecessary it added to the fullness and rich tapestry of the book, which made the book feel like fi...more
Past the introduction where you get back ground on the importance of Carravagio, the small number of his paintings that are still around and introducing the big players who continue to look for paintings in obscure spots, it heats up as the lost painting gets found and revealed to the public. Lots about the art collecting world, the scholars, and the negotiations around displaying something like this.
I enjoyed reading this account of the process of authenticating and finding long missing paintings by Caravaggio and others. I liked the sense of being there in Rome, in London, during the search for The Taking of Christ. The technical aspects of the investigation into the identification of the painter were especially interesting.
Sarah Taylor
Feb 27, 2008 Sarah Taylor rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
This is an amazingly detailed account of the finding of a Caravaggio painting that has been of the grid for 600 years. Caravaggio was such a character (read: murderer, fugitive, all around hothead) and his biography is expertly interwoven in the narrative. You don't have to love art to love this book.
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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...more
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