Thursday, November 6, 2008
I love a good art mystery, so when Ruth Brandon's Caravaggio's Angel came across my desk last month, I snatched it up. Dr. Reggie Lee is a curator for the National Gallery in London and is planning an exhibition featuring Caravaggio's three paintings of St. Cecilia and the Angel. One of the renditions hangs in the Louvre, one in the Getty, and one is owned by a private collector. When Reggie approaches the Louvre to request a loan, she is initially approved, but later the approval is rescinded and the head of the Italian painting collection is found to have committed suicide. When Reggie tracks down the private owner of the other copy, it turns out to be the mother of France's Interior Minister. The Minister is determined to stop Reggie from exhibiting the paintings, and Reggie believes something shady is going on. Her investigation leads to more deaths and a mysterious fourth painting. As mysteries go, this one was disappointing. I didn't think the characters were very well-developed. The back stories of the key players in the mystery were somewhat confusing and I couldn't keep everyone straight. The questions surrounding the authenticity of the paintings aren't completely resolved, and the mystery was a little weak. Also, I was under the impression that St. Cecilia and the Angel was an actual painting done by Caravaggio, but the only painting I could find by that title was done by Carlo Saraceni. The angel pictured on the cover of the book is actually taken from Caravaggio's painting of the Angel and St. Matthew, which leads me to believe that this is a fictional work of art, which I find disappointing. I find it more compelling if it's based on an actual work. Unfortunately, not a must read.