Friday, July 23, 2010

The Raphael Affair by Iain Pears

I don't usually venture into the realm of mystery, but this book really appealed to my love of historical fiction and art. A mysterious painting is unearthed in Italy that was hidden underneath a mediocre painting for hundreds of years. It wasn't until after the painting was bought by a British art dealer that the discovery was realized. It turns out that a long lost Raphael has resurfaced! Now the Italian government scrambles to get back their lost treasure and eventually recovers it, and will stop at nothing to keep it safe. But there is one British graduate student, Jonathan Argyll, who has been nosing around Italy, and he believes that the painting may not be genuine. So when one evening the newest Italian treasure gets torched, it is up to Jonathan and Italian investigator Flavia to find out whether his theory is indeed reality, or whether it was the genuine article that just went up in flames.

This was a good book, and a very quick read. I hear that this is actually the first part of a series focusing on Argyll, so I may have to look into the next installment.

Making this post educational-About Raphael:
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino(April 6 or March 28, 1483 – April 6, 1520), better known simply as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance, celebrated for the perfection and grace of his paintings and drawings. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period.

Raphael was enormously productive, running an unusually large workshop, and despite his death at thirty-seven, a large body of his work remains. Many of his works are found in the Apostolic Palace of The Vatican, where the frescoed Raphael Rooms were the central, and the largest, work of his career. The best known work is the The School of Athens in the Vatican Stanza della Segnatura. After his early years in Rome, much of his work was designed by him and executed largely by the workshop from his drawings, with considerable loss of quality.

He was extremely influential in his lifetime, though outside Rome his work was mostly known from his collaborative printmaking. After his death, the influence of his great rival Michelangelo was more widespread until the 18th and 19th centuries, when Raphael's more serene and harmonious qualities were again regarded as the highest models.

Raphael's work can be found all over Italy, due to rather nomadic style of living. He was much admired during his lifetime, even though it was cut tragically short at the age of 37.

About the Author:
Iain Pears (born in 1955) is an English art historian, novelist and journalist. He was educated at Warwick School, Warwick, Wadham College and Wolfson College, Oxford. Before writing, he worked as a reporter for the BBC, Channel 4 (UK) and ZDF (Germany) and correspondent for Reuters from 1982 to 1990 in Italy, France, UK and US. In 1987 he became a Getty Fellow in the Arts and Humanities at Yale University. His well-known novel series features Jonathan Argyll, art historian, though international fame first arrived with his best selling book An Instance of the Fingerpost (1998), which was translated into several languages. Pears currently lives with his wife and children in Oxford. He has written 12 books, 7 of which are part of the Argyll series.

Other books to consider:
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber, and Angels and Demons by Dan Brown


WonderBunny said...

Did you ever read The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr? That also takes both a historical and modern mystery twist on art. I also liked The Night Villa by Carol Goodman for a little bit of a historical sort of artsy mystery.

MJ said...

This sounds interesting-I'll have to look into it. Thanks WB!

Buried in Books said...

Really interesting. I love historical mysteries, especially about art. I'll have to read this one. After I read everything else on my TBR list.