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June 17, 2014

History of Art Crime: Fabio Isman's 1992 reporting of the discovery of Caravaggio's "The Taking of Christ" in Dublin

The National Gallery of Ireland's "The Taking of Christ"
Caravaggio, 1602
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Jonathan Harr's The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece (Random House, New York, 2005) -- includes the story of how Fabio Isman, an Italian journalist who regularly attends ARCA's Art Crime Conference in Amelia (and a key advisor to ARCA), broke the news that a restorer at the National Gallery of Ireland, Sergio Benedetti, had found Caravaggio's "The Taking of Christ" (1602) at the residence of the Society of Jesus in Dublin.

Harr recounts how in 1992, Isman, an investigative journalist with Rome's daily newspaper Il Messaggero, heard from scholar Sir Denis Mahon that another Caravaggio masterpiece had been found. Mahon would did not specify the work or the location, but Isman persisted in ferreting out the information by calling 'one Caravaggio scholar after another' and chancing upon 'a Caravaggio show with no Caravaggios except for The Supper at Emmaus, which Dublin had somehow managed to get on loan from London.'

This book describes how scholars hunt for authenticity through archives and publications, the differences between record keeping in Britain and Italy, and the competition amongst researchers. A perfect warmup to ARCA's Conference June 27-29 in Amelia.