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The Raphael Affair (1990)

de Iain Pears

Séries: Jonathan Argyll (1)

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1,0272620,161 (3.38)74
Set in Rome, The Raphael Affair features the perpetually beset General Bottando of the Italian National Art Theft Squad; his glamorous assistant, Flavia di Stefano; and Jonathan Argyll, a British art historian. When Jonathan is arrested for breaking into an obscure church in Rome, he claims that it contains a long-lost Raphael hidden under a painting by Mantini. The painting disappears-then reappears in the hands of the top British art dealer, Edward Byrnes. How has Byrnes found out about the hidden masterpiece, and whom is he acting for? There is also the curious matter of the safety-deposit box full of sketches closely resembling features of the newly discovered painting. A hideous act of vandalism occurs, then murder. Bottando faces the most critical challenge of his career, and Jonathan and Flavia find themselves in unexpected danger.… (mais)
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Jonathan Argyll is an enthusiastic English graduate student working on his doctorate in art history; he has almost tracked down what may be an unknown Raphael painting when another man, art dealer Edward Byrnes, beats him to it. The painting is greeted with ecstasy in Italy, where the national gallery is empowered to spend as much money as it takes to acquire the masterpiece. However, Jonathan has doubts about the authenticity of the painting, and when a terrible art crime is perpetrated, the Italian Art Theft Squad begins to investigate, carrying Jonathan along with them…. This is the first in a series about art historian Jonathan Argyll and art theft squad member Flavia di Stefano written by a journalist and art historian himself; I have all seven of the books in the series, having read them some decades ago and now returning to them for an enjoyable re-read. Jonathan and Flavia are interesting characters, having great enthusiasm for (especially Italian) art but approaching the subject from completely different perspectives, and the milieu of the wealthy world of art connoisseurs is unfamiliar and engaging. I’m glad to reacquaint myself with these works; recommended! ( )
  thefirstalicat | Nov 2, 2023 |
#1 Art History mystery. Set primarily in Rome (& Siena) Italy

Jonathan Argyll, graduate art student thinks he has found a Raphael that has been painted over for 200 years. Back and forth, back and forth, twists and turns - and I learned so much about art!

I'll definitely look for more of this series. ( )
  ParadisePorch | Jul 30, 2019 |
I enjoyed the flow of the sentences. Some love, some humor, some art, some setting: all what I look for in a mystery. I might read another! ( )
  MaryHeleneMele | May 6, 2019 |
Arrêté pour flâner dans une église romaine délabrée, l’historien d’art Jonathan Argyll explique aux carabinieri qu’un Raphaël aurait dû s’y trouver, caché sous les coups de pinceau d’un Mantini obscure. Alors que l’hypothèse du jeune anglais s’avère juste, la découverte du tableau manquant est promptement suivie par celle d’un cadavre. Assistés par Argyll, le Gén. Botando et sa belle et indépendante assistante Flavia se lancent sur les traces du meurtrier. Le décor unique de la ville millénaire et à l’atmosphère légère de cette intrigue combleraient les amateurs de mystères érudits, aérés et saupoudrés de romance.
  ivan6344a18 | Dec 10, 2018 |
Iain Pears wrote two of my favourite literary novel. With the majestic Stone’s Fall, he essentially redefined the historical novel, while his The Dream of Scipio features three parallel storylines that seamlessly transcend a span of nearly two thousand years.

Before ascending to those lofty pinnacles of literary fiction, Pears had been an art historian and journalist, and he drew upon that background to write a series of highly entertaining crime novels set in and around the world of the fine arts in Italy. As a simple country boy, this is far from my own comfort area, most of my knowledge of great art having been garnered through the medium of biscuit tin lids or gift calendars, with a distant and hazy recollection of the odd school trip to a local gallery (generally conspicuous by their absence in North Leicestershire during my childhood). That could not matter less, however, as Pears is highly informative without ever seeming to preach to, or patronise, [‘Patronise! Now that’s a good word … and you used it correctly too.’] his readers.

In this first volume in the series, graduate student Jonathan Argyll has been on the trail of a missing Raphael. We tend to think of state restrictions on the export of items of national heritage as a relatively recent phenomenon, but it is a well-established trait. Argyll’s researches revolve around an attempt conspiracy during the eighteenth century to smuggle a Raphael owned by a noble, yet poverty stricken, Italian family out to a wealthy English purchaser. The particular modus operandi selected was to have the old master carefully varnished and then painted over by a lesser artist, with a view to subsequent delicate restoration by the new owners a few years later. Unfortunately, having succumbed to temptation to sidestep the regulations by underhand means, the prospective purchaser then found himself double-crossed, being fobbed off with a [perfectly charming yet relatively valueless painting by the lesser artist, while the disguised Raphael disappeared.

Argyll’s researches appear to have been vindicated when the painting he believes to be the missing and disguised Raphael is bought from under his nose just days before he can formally identify it. The purchaser, esteemed art dealer Edward Byrnes has the painting cleaned and what purports to be a hitherto unknown Raphael is duly discovered. It is eventually sold through one of the prominent London auction houses for a world record sum, being bought by the Italian government. But that is just the start of the fun, and a string of crimes is unleashed, stretching from an act of grotesque artistic vandalism to fraud and even murder. All of this is watched, initially with bemusement but then with growing concern and horror by General Bottando, head of Italy’s Art Theft Squad, and his glamorous and gifted assistant, Flavia di Stafano.

Written with an appealing lightness of touch, this is a highly entertaining crime novel, that blends valuable insight in to the foibles, peccadilloes and fragile egos of the art world with a perfectly plausible plot, a delightfully evocative Italian setting and some highly empathetic characters. ( )
2 vote Eyejaybee | Jun 23, 2018 |
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Generale Taddeo Bottando walked up the staircase covered in stolen works of art slightly before the bell of San Ignazio struck seven in the morning, as usual.
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Set in Rome, The Raphael Affair features the perpetually beset General Bottando of the Italian National Art Theft Squad; his glamorous assistant, Flavia di Stefano; and Jonathan Argyll, a British art historian. When Jonathan is arrested for breaking into an obscure church in Rome, he claims that it contains a long-lost Raphael hidden under a painting by Mantini. The painting disappears-then reappears in the hands of the top British art dealer, Edward Byrnes. How has Byrnes found out about the hidden masterpiece, and whom is he acting for? There is also the curious matter of the safety-deposit box full of sketches closely resembling features of the newly discovered painting. A hideous act of vandalism occurs, then murder. Bottando faces the most critical challenge of his career, and Jonathan and Flavia find themselves in unexpected danger.

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