Told with consummate skill by the writer of the bestselling, award-winning A Civil ActionThe Lost Painting is a remarkable synthesis of history and detective story. 

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. Four hundred years ago, he drank and brawled in the taverns and streets of Rome, moving from one rooming house to another, constantly in and out of jail, all the while painting works of transcendent emotional and visual power. He rose from obscurity to fame and wealth, but success didn’t alter his violent temperament. His rage finally led him to commit murder, forcing him to flee Rome a hunted man. He died young, alone, and under strange circumstances.

Caravaggio scholars estimate that between sixty and eighty 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.

Praise for The Lost Painting

“Jonathan Harr has gone to the trouble of writing what will probably be a bestseller . . . rich and wonderful. . . . In truth, the book reads better than a thriller. . . . If you're a sucker for Rome, and for dusk . . . [you'll] enjoy Harr's more clearly reported details about life in the city.”The New York Times Book Review

“Jonathan Harr has taken the story of the lost painting, and woven from it a deeply moving narrative about history, art and taste—and about the greed, envy, covetousness and professional jealousy of people who fall prey to obsession. It is as perfect a work of narrative nonfiction as you could ever hope to read.”The Economist
“Jonathan Harr has gone to the trouble of writing what will probably be a bestseller . . . rich and wonderful . . .in truth, the book reads better than a thriller because, unlike a lot of best-selling nonfiction authors who write in a more or less novelistic vein, Harr doesn't plump up his tale. He almost never foreshadows, doesn’t implausibly reconstruct entire conversations and rarely throws in litanies of clearly conjectured or imagined details just for color’s sake. . . . If you're a sucker for Rome, and for dusk . . . [you'll] enjoy Harr's more clearly reported details about life in the city, as when—one of my favorite moments in the whole book—Francesca and another young colleague try to calm their nerves before a crucial meeting with a forbidding professor by eating gelato. And who wouldn’t in Italy? The pleasures of travelogue here are incidental but not inconsiderable.”The New York Times Book Review

“Jonathan Harr has taken the story of the lost painting, and woven from it a deeply moving narrative about history, art and taste—and about the greed, envy, covetousness and professional jealousy of people who fall prey to obsession. It is as perfect a work of narrative nonfiction as you could ever hope to read.”The Economist

“Harr’s lean, observant prose provides sensory intimacy without sensory overload. . . . The result is a revealing portrait of a world seldom seen by ordinary folks. . . . At its best, Harr’s magnetic storytelling recalls Cappelletti’s first encounter with the work of Caravaggio. To her, his paintings seemed ‘to pulse with heat and life, capturing a moment in time like a scene glimpsed through a window.’”The Washington Post Book World

“[The Lost Painting] reads like a whodunit, romantic thriller and scholarly monograph rolled into one. . . . A colorful cast of real-life charmers, dreamers and oddballs worthy of a novelist’s vivid imagination.”—Baltimore Sun

“With The Lost Painting . . . [Harr] bestows on it all of his narrative gifts. . . . Cappelletti . . . notes that ‘nowadays almost every art historian with an interest in the seicento [17th century] had a Caravaggio article in the works, and museums everywhere wanted to put on a Caravaggio exhibition. . . .’ She called it ‘the Caravaggio disease.’ . . . Readers of The Lost Painting may well find themselves similarly afflicted.”Newsday

“Riveting . . . Harr [is] a consummate storyteller. . . . An effortlessly educational and marvelously entertaining mix of art history and scholarly sleuthing.”Booklist

“Part detective story, part treasure hunt, this book takes us from dusty basement archives to the ornate galleries of Europe’s finest art museums. . . . Harr provides a fascinating glimpse into the insular world of art history and restoration. . . . Art lovers and mystery fans should find plenty to ponder and enjoy.”Kirkus Reviews