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Publisher's Summary

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.

The artist was Caravaggio, a master of the Italian Baroque. He was a genius, a revolutionary painter, and a man beset by personal demons.

Caravaggio scholars estimate that between 60 and 80 of his works are in existence today. Many others, no one knows the precise number, have been lost to time. Somewhere, surely, a masterpiece lies forgotten in a storeroom, or in a small parish church, or hanging above a fireplace, mistaken for a mere copy.

Prizewinning author Jonathan Harr embarks on an spellbinding journey to discover the long-lost painting known as The Taking of Christ; its mysterious fate and the circumstances of its disappearance have captivated Caravaggio devotees for years. After Francesca Cappelletti stumbles across a clue in that dusty archive, she tracks the painting across a continent and hundreds of years of history. But it is not until she meets Sergio Benedetti, an art restorer working in Ireland, that she finally manages to assemble all the pieces of the puzzle.

The fascinating details of Caravaggio's strange, turbulent career and the astonishing beauty of his work come to life in these pages. Harr's account is not unlike a Caravaggio painting: vivid, deftly wrought, and enthralling.

©2005 Jonathan Harr; (P)2005 Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Harr's skillful and long-awaited follow-up to 1997's A Civil Action provides a finely detailed account." (Publishers Weekly)

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  • Overall

an incredible and complex story unfolds seamlessly

This book was absolutely excellent, an easy listen with a wonderful cast of characters. The storyline flows nicely despite being very complex, surrounding the incredible discovery of a Caravaggio painting in the unlikeliest of places. The rich narrative seamlessly ties together diverse characters and the underlying mystery surrounding their connection, albeit unknown to them, to the lost painting. Throughout the story, the various personalities are fleshed-out as they are followed, and the truth of the painting's history unfolds. The details were wonderful, making it easy to visualize the different places visited, the people in the story, and the various levels of connection that are made as the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. I love art and mysteries, and I loved this book. I was also pleasantly surprised by the brief but informative interview with the author. Highly recommended.

27 of 27 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Engrossing and well written

Jonathan Harr has written a story within a story, but not just the usual kind. This is a biography within a true story, a window on history glimpsed from the world of art historians. He has crafted a tale that is both suspenseful and full of human drama. The listener comes to care about the real people who populate this book, whether they are our contemporaries or lived 400 years ago in Rome.
I hated for the story to end. There is an interesting interview with Mr. Harr at the end of the book. His style is truly unique, a contemporay historian/journalist who writes non-fiction with the feel of a novel. He is writing shorter pieces now, but I hope that he will begin another full length work soon.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Alex
  • Athens, GA, USA
  • 01-20-06

Search and Revelation

This story is small, compelling gem: three modern day characters hovering around the traces of genius from an artist now gone for nearly 400 years.

For some reason, this plot did not confuse me: Harr does an effective job of connecting the reader with each of the three main protagonists, and of explaining to me their separate fascinations with Caravaggio's wild brilliance. I felt the web of social relations surrounding each of the three, and the depth of their shared "Caravaggio madness", as a binding force in the book.

Harr's prose is well-suited to audio format: clear, crisp, very much to the point. He turns his fascination with technical detail into a strength: the detail takes on a life of its own at times, serving as the medium through which the searchers come into contact with the painting: and through it with Caravaggio himself. This is, after all, a story of a transformative search: one that alters the lives of two of the three main characters, and that reveals the life of the fourth.

This is neither an exhaustive assessment of the painting nor a thorough biography of the artist. Instead, it is (in effect) a thoughtful assessment of why we dig into the beauties of the past and on the pleasures and miseries of scholarship, even of obsession.

The reader is perfect: great sound, intonation and pace. Altogether a must-read.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Better Read than Heard

Although I am a fan of Carvaggio, reader Campbell Scott and, of course, the new freedom Audible has given me to enjoy more books than I could possibly do if I had to read them in the conventional manner--"The Lost Painting" is a not a good choice for listening. The book recounts the arduous, often tedious work in tracking down and authenticating a masterpiece of art. In order to relay this story and give all the participants their due there are too many characters, places, and terminology to contend with, and for myself I often had trouble following who was who and where was where. If I had the book in hand (which I intend to do at the library soon) I would be able to go back over confusing bits in order to remind myself of specifics. I also suspect that the printed book is indexed and/or footnoted which would aid in studying this account and that there is a valid reason for doing this. Therefore, my low rating is directly aimed at "The Lost Painting" as a rating for an "audio" book and nothing against the writer, the story, or the fabulous reader Campbell Scott.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


It's amazing that a book about art historians digging through archives can be so fascinating, but it is. This is a real tour de force; I cannot recommend it highly enough!

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • shirley
  • Covina, CA, United States
  • 03-26-13

Entertaining and informative

What made the experience of listening to The Lost Painting the most enjoyable?

The book provided a wonderful listening experience for me by gracefully moving between the present and the past. As the author developed each of the present day charactors (historians, curators and restoration artists), he carefully described their roles in the story. At the same time, I found myself being walked through Caravaggio's tragic life and that experience brought greater life to the works of art he left behind.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • Halifax, NS, Canada
  • 10-01-12


This is an amazing story told with finesse. I really enjoyed the detailed descriptions of archival research and art restoration. You will learn a great deal about how paintings are painstakingly traced through historical records, and how their authenticity can be proven. No, it's nothing like the Da Vinci Code - this is real scholarship and far more interesting.

The reader is fine, although he has a sad, melancholic tone that drains the energy a little; a book with this much excitement and revelation needed more enthusiasm.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Paul
  • Highland Park, IL, USA
  • 11-26-05

Erudite, but boring

Harr knows his art history, from the techniques of Caravaggio to where his paintings finally landed after 4 centuries of intrigue, war and auctions. If you want to learn that information, this is your book. But if you're looking for a plot, with at least some action, you're better off elsewhere. Nothing (and I mean nothing, nada, zip, bupkus) happens in this novel. I finished it because I thought the art history aspects of the book were interesting, but this has been (so far) the most boring audio book I've heard on Audible.

17 of 25 people found this review helpful

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Like a Daniel Silva book without the excitement

I liked this book which had been recommended to me. I am a Daniel Silva fan, so I couldn't help but think about his art restorer hero, Gabriel Alon. This book was very informative about the world of art, art restoration and provenance of artwork, but it was missing some excitement for me. I am not sorry that I listened, but wouldn't recommend it.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Reminiscent of The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro

Very well told story about the efforts by art archivists, restorers, Caravaggio experts to be certain of the provenance of the painting in question. Even world-class restorer Gabriel Allon, who loved Caravaggio in the Daniel Silva espionage series might have learned something from this book.