The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr

Caravaggio was certainly one of the most colorful (no pun intended) personalities of the Italian Baroque painters.  He lived hard, drank hard, and had a reputation as a loose cannon.  He also created lasting masterpieces and a centuries-old mystique.  Once mired on obscurity, his stature has risen in recent times, with new appreciation for his technique and the drama of his pictures.

The Lost Painting reads like a thriller – how an art scholar and a museum restorer arrive at finding the original of Caravaggio’s  The Taking of Christ, a completely hopeless prospect.  Or is it?   

I found the book hard to put down.  It evokes the  sights and smells of Rome beautifully from Caravaggio’s time (early 16oos) and the present time of the book, circa 1989-1992.  Its characters are all too human:  scholars, critics, faded nobility, art snobs and bitter rivals, and Caravaggio himself, in all his debauched glory.  There’s a lot here to read about archival matters and painting restoration; these are maybe the slowest parts of the book, but read on anyhow.  You will get caught up quickly enough with the main players in this well-written page turner.  It will certainly make you think more of the lives that live behind the creation and adoration of a painting.  The Lost Painting will also remind one of the fragility of art itself.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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