iwan ross | writer | feature writer | copyeditor

Lost Masterpiece

The Quest for Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man


In the shadowy corners of the art world, there lies a mystery as elusive as the smile of Mona Lisa herself. The 'Portrait of a Young Man', Raphael's masterpiece, vanished without a trace during World War II. But what if it wasn't lost at all? What if it was hidden in plain sight, its true identity obscured by time and the absence of faithful reproductions?

The internet is filled with images purporting to be Raphael's lost masterpiece. Yet, each one is strikingly different from the last. The reason? No copies of the original were ever made, a rarity in the art world where masterpieces are frequently reproduced for study and posterity. Without a known copy, no one can say for certain what the 'Portrait of a Young Man' truly looks like.

My search began with these contrasting images. Each one claimed authenticity, yet none matched the others. Some depicted a youth with a soft, almost angelic face, while others portrayed a more mature figure with a stern gaze. The backgrounds varied too – from a simple dark void to an intricate landscape.

As I delved deeper into the heart of this enigma, I began to uncover secrets that have been hidden for decades. Clues hinted at a vast conspiracy, a cover-up spanning continents and centuries. And at the center of it all was the 'Portrait of a Young Man', its true form as elusive as the artist who painted it.

One night, I found myself at a dinner party in Calabria, Italy. The aroma of the food still lingered in the air as our host, Fabian, turned the stove plates off and joined us in the lounge. A surrealistic painting on the wall evoked a heated debate, electrifying the room.

The painting was breathtaking, showing the profile of a young man, depicted from the waist up. He turned slightly to the left, yet his direct and serene gaze created a sense of intimacy with the viewer. His lavish attire, reminiscent of the Renaissance era, was a testament to his status and affluence.

The young man in the painting wore a fur coat over his shoulders, an item of clothing that was both practical and a symbol of wealth during the Renaissance era. The richness of the colors, the texture of the fur, the gleam in the young man's eyes, were all rendered with such intricate detail that it was hard to believe it was just a copy.

James, a fellow guest and art enthusiast, was the first to break the silence. He pointed out the masterful brush strokes, the play of light and shadow on the young man's face, the realistic rendering of the fabric. All these elements, he argued, hinted at the hand of Giorgione, a renowned painter of the Venetian school. Fabian, our host, confirmed James' suspicion. The painting was indeed an authentic copy of Raphael's 'Portrait of a Young Man'. The room buzzed with excitement. Authentic copies of original masterpieces were rare, and having one grace the walls of Fabian's lounge was a testament to his exquisite taste.

Karen, another guest, was taken aback by this revelation. She quickly pulled out her phone, her fingers dancing across the screen as she searched for evidence to support Fabian's claim. Finding an image of the original painting, she compared it to the one on the wall. The resemblance was uncanny.

Fabian then produced his phone, revealing a picture of the original painting. It was identical to the one on his wall, down to the last brush stroke. Karen was amazed and excited about the discovery. The evening had taken an unexpected turn, transforming from a casual dinner party into a thrilling exploration of art history.

As the night wore on, we delved deeper into the mystery of the 'Portrait of a Young Man'. We pondered the fate of the original painting, speculated about its current whereabouts, and marveled at the skill of the artist who had created such a captivating copy.

This chance encounter with Raphael's masterpiece reignited my quest to uncover the truth about Raphael's lost painting. Little did I know, this was just the beginning of a journey that would take me to the heart of the art world's most intriguing mystery.


The mystery of the 'Portrait of a Young Man' had taken an unexpected turn. What started as a casual dinner party in Calabria had turned into a thrilling investigation. The copy of Raphael's portrait had reignited my quest, and I was more determined than ever to uncover the truth about Raphael's missing masterpiece.

In the following weeks, I traversed the art world, seeking insights from historians, curators, and fellow art enthusiasts. Each interaction brought me closer to the truth, yet the elusive original painting remained just out of reach.

During a visit to a small museum in Florence, I stumbled upon another piece that bore a striking resemblance to the 'Portrait of a Young Man'. A curator explained that it was another reproduction, this time by an unknown artist who had been inspired by Raphael's work. This revelation was intriguing. Could there be other copies out there, hidden away in private collections or forgotten corners of museums?

I spent countless hours poring over archives and databases, searching for any trace of the lost masterpiece. The internet was both a blessing and a curse. While it provided access to a wealth of information, it also muddied the waters. For every authentic image of the 'Portrait of a Young Man', there were a dozen fakes.

My determination never wavered. I knew that somewhere out there, the original painting was waiting to be discovered. The clues were there, hidden in plain sight. It was just a matter of piecing them together.

The journey was fraught with obstacles, but each setback only fueled my resolve. I knew that I was on the right path. The 'Portrait of a Young Man' may have been missing for decades, but its spirit lived on in the reproductions, the stories, and the people who cherished its memory.

As I delved deeper into the mystery, I couldn't help but marvel at the power of art. Even in its absence, Raphael's masterpiece had a profound impact. It inspired debate, sparked curiosity, and brought people together from all walks of life. The 'Portrait of a Young Man' was more than just a painting. It was a symbol of our shared humanity, a testament to the enduring power of creativity. And I was determined to restore it to its rightful place in the annals of art history.


My journey took me to the bustling city of Paris, where a renowned art historian named Dr. Lefevre agreed to meet with me. His extensive knowledge of Renaissance art and his particular interest in Raphael's work made him an invaluable resource.

Dr. Lefevre welcomed me into his study, a room filled floor-to-ceiling with books and papers. A large desk was cluttered with photographs, notes, and sketches, evidence of his ongoing research.

We spent hours discussing Raphael's 'Portrait of a Young Man', comparing it to the numerous reproductions I had encountered during my investigation. Dr. Lefevre was particularly intrigued by the copy I had seen at Fabian's dinner party. He suggested that the artist who created it might have had access to the original painting or a reliable reproduction.

This revelation was a breakthrough in my investigation. If we could find the artist who created the copy, we might be able to trace their steps back to the original masterpiece.

With renewed vigor, I returned to Calabria and sought out Fabian. He was surprised but delighted to see me again. When I explained my theory, he agreed to help in any way he could.

Together, we delved into the history of the painting. Fabian revealed that he had bought it from an antique shop in Venice many years ago. The owner of the shop had no information about the artist, but he remembered acquiring it from an estate sale in Rome.

Our next stop was Rome, where we tracked down the estate and its current owner, an elderly woman named Signora Bianchi. She welcomed us into her home and shared stories of her late husband, a passionate art collector. When we showed her the picture of the copy, her eyes lit up with recognition. She confirmed that it had once hung on the walls of her home. Signora Bianchi led us to an old chest, filled with her husband's personal papers. Among them, we found a photograph of the original 'Portrait of a Young Man'. The image was faded and grainy, but it matched the copy in Fabian's lounge.

The discovery was exhilarating. We were one step closer to uncovering the truth about Raphael's lost masterpiece. But there were still many questions that needed answers. Who had created the copy? How did they gain access to the original painting? And most importantly, where was the 'Portrait of a Young Man' now?

And with that, the story comes to a satisfying conclusion. I hope you enjoyed this thrilling art investigation! Happy Reading!



As an author, inspiration can strike from the most unexpected places. While writing 'Shadows of Deceit', I was deeply engrossed in exploring themes of mystery and hidden truths. It was during this creative process that the intriguing story of Raphael's missing artwork caught my attention. The layers of history, artistry, and enigma surrounding this artwork resonated with the narrative I was crafting. This real-life mystery fueled my imagination, leading me to weave a similar thread of intrigue and suspense into my book. 'Shadows of Deceit' thus carries a piece of this fascinating art history within its pages, adding a unique depth to the story. I hope you enjoy uncovering these hidden layers as you journey through the book.

Read this story in Chapters.