|Gulf Shore Cottage 17 x 24 Watercolor & Pastel|
While painting this week, I enjoyed listening to a book called The Lost Painting, by Jonathan Harr. It chronicles a pair of graduate students in their late 1990's search for a lost Caravaggio painting called The Taking of Christ, and a museum curator's discovery & restoration of the painting in a Dublin Jesuit residence dining room. For a visual thinker, the writing is fantastic, as it relates detective-worthy details of the characters - and their journey - with lots of colorful description; everything from the politics of European art history, and the restoration world, to details of Caravaggio's life, his art materials, and the painting itself.
Around the table, the topic of conversation is an artist who lived four hundred years ago, named Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Sir Denis has studied, nose to the canvas, magnifying glass in hand, every known work by the artist. Since the death of his rival and nemesis, the great Italian art scholar Roberto Longhi, Sir Denis has been regarded as the world's foremost authority on Caravaggio. Nowadays, younger scholars who claim the painter as their domain will challenge him on this point or that, as he himself had challenged Longhi many years ago. Even so, he is still paid handsome sums by collectors to render his opinion on the authenticity of disputed works. His verdict can mean a gain or loss of a small fortune for his clients.
To his great regret, Sir Denis tells his luncheon companions, he's never had the chance to own a painting by Caravaggio. For one thing, fewer than eighty authentic Caravaggios - some would argue no more than sixty-are known to exist. Several were destroyed during World War II, and others have simply vanished over the centuries. A genuine Caravaggio rarely comes on the market.
~The Lost Painting, by Jonathan Harr