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The Lost Painting

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  27,233 ratings  ·  929 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
Paperback, 320 pages
Published November 7th 2006 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published October 25th 2005)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  27,233 ratings  ·  929 reviews

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Jul 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 25, 2009 rated it liked it
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.
Oct 29, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, art
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
Joy D
Non-fiction art history that provides an engaging account of the efforts to locate, repair, and authenticate a lost Caravaggio Masterpiece, entitled The Taking of Christ. This book contains subjects of interest to me such as methods used in painting conservation, tracing provenance, and the lives of masterful artists. It follows two students, Francesca Cappelletti and Laura Testa, as they locate records from the 1600s in the cellar of a palazzo in a small town in Italy. It then switches to the s ...more
Alger Smythe-Hopkins
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
Aug 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Katya Colvin
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Read this book quite a few years ago while in a hospital with my daughter. It saved my sanity and eased the stay. Well written a true story about finding a masterpiece of Caravaggio. The painting itself is exquisite, I enjoyed studying it at a historical exibition in Rome. Harr’s writing is captivating; makes you want to find out what’s next and the story he tells will stay with you for a long, long time.
Ryan Louis
Dec 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
This was the second book I took with me to Ireland for school in the beginning of June. I recently got a copy when a faculty member I worked with retired and I knew the Caravaggio painting, The Taking of Christ, that is detailed in this book hangs in the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin. I saw it last year (after waiting a painfully long time for a group of tourists to move out of my way - seriously, they were only chatting in front of it, not even looking at it) but wanted this book as a c ...more
Dec 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Gayla Marks
Oct 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
I truly liked the insight into the art historian's life and the tools they use to determine the authenticity of a painting. This story concerns a lost Caravaggio painting and athe hunt that was carried on in an attempt to find it. Two graduate students go on a hunt to locate the past history of who possessed the painting and to whom it was passed on to. The author does a great job of describing the clues the two students followed and the stumbling blocks they encountered along the way. Sooo inte ...more
Feb 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Excellent! Tells the true art history detective story behind the discovery of Caravaggio's masterpiece The Taking of Christ believed lost for 400 years. Fast-paced and suspenseful. Mr. Harr's writing is lean and descriptive with just the right balance of emotion. Everything needed to tell this fascinating story, nothing more. Loved it.
A surprisingly good read!

I found this in the book exchange box in my town and wasn't aware of it before that. I have a lifelong interest in painting and art history, so I decided to give it a read.... I was pulled in immediately. Jonathan Harr managed to keep me engaged in what could have been a boring academic search for a lost painting. His pacing and character description are great and I had a hard time stopping each night before going to bed. That doesn't happen often, so I can safely recomm
Jun 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 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
Matt McCormick
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I have spent the last three days devouring Harr's account of the discovery of a lost Caravaggio masterpiece - "The Taking of Christ". His presentation is an excellent detective story, lesson in art history/restoration and the character development of interesting and at times pretentious people. Like a jigsaw puzzle master he fits all the divergent pieces together into a clear and beautiful picture.

I was especially pleased that Harr devoted space and time to individuals who it seems failed to ach
Feb 13, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, audio, 2011
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
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
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An excellent example of how to write about a complex, scholarly topic with clarity. Writers attempting to bring awareness to an important, yet abstruse field of study should read The Lost Painting. Plus, it's a delightful story that isn't afraid to make fun of narrow-minded scholars. If you want to explore why we value art and "authenticity," give it a read.
Angela Juline
Jan 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
i absolutely loved his book, a civil action (if you saw the movie, which was terrible, the book is far better), so i'm hoping this one will be just as intriguing. loved it! i learned so much, so even though it wasn't a page turner, i highly recommend it.
Michael Gerald
Sep 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Todd Wright
Jan 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Part Da Vinci Code, part Caravaggio biography, part survey of Baroque art history. Easy read - very well worth the time spent.
Sep 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, non-fiction
This is narrative nonfiction at its best and the fascinating tale of the discovery of the lost Caravaggio painting, The Taking of Christ, reads like a mystery novel. It all began with determining the provenance of two unrelated paintings and establishing which of those was an authentic Caravaggio. As the researcher’s investigation deepened, they stumbled across references to The Taking, but came to a dead end.

Detailed descriptions of journeys into old family archives, hundreds of hours reviewin
Aug 05, 2012 rated it liked it
This story would have made a good long article in the New Yorker. As a book, I feel there was a lot of padding and building to moments that proved anticlimactic. "The Lost Painting" tells of the search for a lost Caravaggio, "The Taking of Christ," through the efforts of a pair of Italian graduate students and later an Italian restorer working in Dublin. The two students, Francesca Cappelletti and Laura Testa, go through ancient records to find evidence of the painting's creation in the early ye ...more
Jeff Jellets
Jul 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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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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