Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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Given the relative obscurity of 16th-century the Italian baroque master and all-around creative bad boy Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, who after a flare of fame remained relatively unknown from his death until the 1950s, the 1992 discovery of the artist's missing painting The Taking of Christ understandably stirred up a frenzy in academic circles. Harr's skillful and long-awaited follow-up to 1997's A Civil Action provides a finely detailed account of the fuss. While contoured brush strokes and pentimenti repaints have little to do with the toxic waters and legalese Harr dissected in his debut, the author writes comfortably about complex artistic processes and enlivens the potentially tedious details of artistic restoration with his lively and articulate prose. Broken into short, succinct chapters, the narrative unfolds at a brisk pace, skipping quickly from the perspective of 91-year-old Caravaggio scholar Sir Denis Mahon to that of young, enterprising Francesca Cappelletti, a graduate student at the University of Rome researching the disappearance of The Taking of Christ. The mystery ends with Sergio Benedetti, a restorer at the National Gallery of Ireland, who ultimately discovers the lost, grime-covered masterpiece in a house owned by Jesuit priests. But while adept at coordinating dates and analyzing hairline fractures in aged paint, Harr often seems overly concerned with the step-by-step process of tracking down The Taking of the Christ, as if the specific artist who created it were irrelevant. Granted, Harr is not an art historian, but his lack of artistic analysis of Caravaggio's paintings may frustrate readers who wish to know more about the naturalistic Italian's works. (Nov. 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The author of A Civil Action here offers a very different kind of investigation: he tells the story of art student Francesca Cappelletti's efforts to track down a Caravaggio painting missing for 200 years. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Written like a detective story, this book recounts the unlikely story of the discovery of The Taking of Christ, a "lost" original by Caravaggio. It follows two intersecting paths to the painting. One leads through the serendipitous findings in the Mattei family archives in Recanati by two graduate students from Rome, Francesca Cappelletti and Laura Testa. In 1989, Cappelletti and Testa documented the creation of the work in 1602 in Rome, and confirmed its sale to a Scotsman in 1802. The painting subsequently disappeared after its auction in Edinburgh in 1921. The other trail involves Sergio Benedetti, a restorer at the National Gallery of Ireland, who in 1990 discerned hidden qualities beneath the grime of an old canvas tucked away in a Jesuit residence in Dublin. Although the breathless narrative, colorful descriptions, re-created dialogue, and digressions into the personal lives of the protagonists become somewhat tiresome, Harr does a good job of capturing the nature of archival research, and he intersperses his account with a brief, if accurate, biography of Caravaggio. Geared to a general audience, this is nevertheless a valid and interesting book for all readers. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through faculty. J. I. Miller California State University, Long Beach


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Harr, author of the best-selling A Civil Action (1995), turns from a true-life courtroom drama to the riveting story of a lost masterpiece. The Italian painter Caravaggio (1573-1610) was famous for his startling vision of the divine in ordinary lives, and infamous for his street-fighter life. An artistic genius and a fugitive killer, Caravaggio remains a compelling enigma, and his mystique is enhanced by the scarcity of his works. The disappearance of one painting in particular, The Taking of Christ, baffled art historians for two centuries. Harr, a consummate storyteller, now traces the canvas' journey in an effortlessly educating and marvelously entertaining mix of art history and scholarly sleuthing. The search begins when a Roman graduate student, Francesca Cappelletti, manages to charm the Marchesa Mattei, an eccentric descendant of one of Caravaggio's Roman patrons, into allowing her and her to examine never-before-studied family archives. Meanwhile, Sergio Benedetti, an ambitious Italian restorer working in Dublin at the National Gallery of Ireland, believes that an old painting hanging in a Jesuit residence, a work in dire need of cleaning, is a forgotten Caravaggio. As Harr expertly tracks the converging quests of the students and the restorer, he incisively recounts Caravaggio's wild and tragic life, and offers evocative testimony to the resonance of his daring and magnificent work. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2005 Booklist


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Harr's A Civil Action was a best-selling environmental law thriller that was made into a hit motion picture starring John Travolta. His new book recounts the true story of a young Italian graduate student, Francesca Cappelletti, and a National Gallery of Ireland art restorer, Sergio Benedetti, who, 15 years earlier, discovered a Caravaggio painting known as The Taking of Christ that had been missing for 200 years. This book, like his previous title, reads like a fiction thriller and begs to be set on the screen. It is a story of individual persistence, dedication, and, perhaps, obsession; of rank and politics in the art world; and of a troubled 16th-century master who died at age 39. Many of Caravaggio's 60 known paintings remain lost (or, like The Taking of Christ, misattributed). While Benedetti's own exhibition catalog, Caravaggio: The Master Revealed (1993), which is still available through the National Gallery of Ireland, gives the background and basic facts of the painting and its discovery and restoration, Harr infuses this information with life and suspense, and his sure-to-be-popular account will lead general readers to a new appreciation of a long-lost masterpiece as well as of the potential excitement of art history scholarship and art restoration. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/15/05.]-Marcia Welsh, Dartmouth Coll. Libs., Hanover, NH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.