An intricate and fun art mystery surrounding an old painting.




Debut authors Kashani and Moss offer a revisionist take on an obscure painting in their art history debut.

Kashani, an Iranian American antiquities dealer, believes he has found a lost painting by the 16th-century Dutch artist Cornelis van Haarlem, who the authors say is sometimes called “the Da Vinci of the Dutch” or “the Michelangelo of the North.” The painting, Single Combat, depicts the battle between two sets of warrior triplets, the Horatii and the Curiatii, as recounted in the writings of the Roman historian Livy. Kashani acquired it in 2000 and since then has been seeking to authenticate it as the lost “battle scene” mentioned in an inventory at the time of the artist’s death and to decode the complex visual message hidden in—and underneath—its paint. As Kashani tells it with help from Moss, the painting reveals connections to Leonardo, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Rubens, and others and to two of the ancient world’s greatest empires. As the mystery unravels, the book reveals itself to be not only an in-depth glimpse into a distant moment in art history, but also an exploration of one man’s singular obsession to prove a highly unorthodox theory. Kashani is like a character out of a novel: eccentric, cultured, verbose, and happily at war with establishment thinking. “I’ll share my secrets—or rather Cornelis’ secrets—with you, gentle reader,” he writes in his introduction. “Far from wallowing in self-pity for feeling misunderstood, I’ve learned to kill my ego, stand strong, move forward with integrity, and make existence count regardless of academia’s prejudices.” In addition to the historical background on Cornelis and his work—fascinating in and of itself—this handsomely designed book bolsters its case with zoomed-in photographs of tiny sections of the painting and with related art, including portraits of artists and engravings of the city of Haarlem. There is as much talk of codes as in a Dan Brown novel, and at some point the reader begins to lose the thread, but the puzzle is certainly an enjoyable one to attempt to solve. Whether or not they accept Kashani’s theories, readers will come away with a greater understanding of just how much information a given painting has to communicate—and the extent to which that meaning depends, like beauty, on the eye of the beholder.

An intricate and fun art mystery surrounding an old painting.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-578-59326-5

Page Count: 332

Publisher: Kashani Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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