This paper explores the dispersal of the collection of decorative arts of the dealer and collector Frédéric Spitzer and its success among German collections and museums. It outlines a vivid depiction of the 19th century art collecting practices, offering clues to the role played by the dispersal of artworks and artefacts in shaping canons of taste and value together with museums’ authorities. Experts and collectors from all over Europe could not miss the opportunity to get their hands on some of Spitzer’s treasures being put on sale in 1893. The sale was soon heralded as the “Sale of the Century”. Making an acquisition from the Spitzer collection was regarded as invaluable investment. Although in 1893 a few critical voices arose out of the general acclaim much of the contemporary accounts were uncritical, building up the “myth” of the Spitzer collection as an unparalleled collection of decorative arts. All the German industrial museums planned to attend its sale with the goal of making their country a leader in the international world of museums. Events related to the Spitzer’s sale witness how German curators – including Justus Brinckmann of Hamburg, Wilhelm Bode and Julius Lessing of Berlin – were able and buy key artworks for their museums, applying a kind of combination of private and public funds. The role of private collectors in the sale is tough to fully understand given fluid borders between private and public interests. The fate of the Spitzer collection bears witness to shared international strategies and converging tastes beyond national boundaries.
The 1860’s saw the first successes of Stefano Bardini’s dealing career as well as the proliferation of professional academic expertise and its concomitant expression in serial publications. Thus it was more than fortuitous that one of his first clients was Wilhelm von Bode. From the early 1870s, Bardini maintained an active and energetic relationship with Bode, first, because Bode had an ambitious collecting agenda on behalf of the German museums, as well as on behalf of several wealthy collectors. Bode’s influence was incisive, and his legacy endures today because Bode also maintained a prolific scholarly publication record which laid the foundations for what still is the practice of connoisseurship of Italian Renaissance sculpture. In addition, Bode’s numerous publications promoted his professional expertise, which in the late 19C art market was an ever increasingly valuable commodity in Europe and abroad. And every bit as much, it promoted all of the Bardini objects which heavily populated the writings of Bode. With mind-numbing circuitousness, Bardini would then go on to cite the published authority of Bode, while at the same time, provide comparisons to other versions of objects – extant siblings, as it were – that Bardini had also put into circulation. On the basis of archival material, and the example of the so-called Pazzi Madonna, this paper reconstructs, in part, the microhistory of its transaction and the concomitant issues of branding, marketing, provenance, attribution and authenticity.
According to the scant literature on the subject, the sale of the famed Barberini Tapestries was brokered over tea cups. In 1889, the retired wool merchant and amateur tapestry enthusiast Charles Mather Ffoulke (1841–1909), eager to purchase two sets of tapestries to decorate his Washington, D.C. home, met with the Princess Barberini. Finding the Princess unwilling to divide the family’s historic collection, Ffoulke was instead compelled to purchase all 135 pieces, and thus – quite by accident – he became one of the most important early dealers, collectors and eventual scholars of tapestries in America. This anecdote is reported in Ffoulke’s own retelling of the event; archival evidence, however, suggests that his acquisition of the tapestries was far from accidental and appears instead to have been the result of a planned, collaborative effort between Ffoulke, the Florentine tapestry restorer and dealer Giuseppe Salvadori and the renowned antiquities dealer Stefano Bardini, with whom Salvadori had been closely associated for many years. Though Ffoulke was represented in his biographies and in the contemporary press as a lone agent, his Massachusetts Avenue gallery instead functioned as the American outpost of a trans-Atlantic enterprise, the function of which was to procure, restore, and sell Renaissance and Baroque furnishings to the new American aristocracy of the Gilded Age. Although the precise details of this relationship are never made explicit, enough evidence survives to reconstruct the circumstances behind the Barberini Tapestry sale and the operations of the Ffoulke-Salvadori-Bardini network.
The Galleria Simonetti of Rome is an eloquent example of a global art business that originated from the studio of an artist. As a well-known painter, Attilio Simonetti (1843–1925) started buying art primarily to use it as a model for his own paintings; only later he became passionate about collecting and selling. His collection of art was therefore influenced more by his fellow artists – including his master Mariano Fortuny – than by the latest market trends. In fact Simonetti’s collection of exotic elements and fine antiquities gradually became more appealing that his own paintings. After a few years in the business, he acquired a great palace in Rome to display his collection, turning The Galleria Simonetti into one of the city’s most renown private galleries and one of the finest shops. As a dealer, Simonetti contributed to the rediscovery of the decorative arts and set a new taste for their use and display. This essay will outline the figure of Simonetti though his relationship with Wilhelm von Bode (1845–1929). Since at least 1889 Simonetti kept a yearly correspondence with the German art historian sharing information about objects in his gallery as well as personal notes. Bode made several acquisitions from the dealer's Roman gallery for the Royal museum as well as for other German collectors. Starting from the unpublished correspondence between the two this contribution aims to shed new light on Bode’s suppliers in Rome and his network in the neo elected capital of Italy.
The chapter focuses on the last two decades of the life and career – as connoisseur, collector and dealer – of the painter Charles Fairfax Murray (1849–1919). These were dominated by his association with the leading London art dealers, Thomas Agnew and Sons, and in particular with Lockett Agnew (1858–1918). Though long known, this association has never been the object of informed analysis. Examination of the firm’s surviving business records has revealed its scope and scale, as well as its multiple modes of interaction, and forms the basis of the account presented here. Focusing in particular on transactions in paintings, the chapter attempts an analysis of the five modes of business relationship – as customer, joint purchaser, sharer in profit and supplier of services – defining Murray’s association with the firm between 1893 and 1918. It thereby sheds light on the collaborative dynamics of the Agnew’s business in general and on the innovative force of Murray’s collaboration with the firm in particular. Finally, it offers a portrait of Murray as both an astute and resourceful businessman and also a collector who, in R. H: Benson’s words, “regarded himself as trustee of most of his artistic possessions”.
The essay in question investigates the authorship problem of a marble relief of a Flagellation of Christ, attributed to Donatello by Wilhelm von Bode, who had acquired it in Florence from Stefano Bardini. It was, in the past, celebrated as one of the masterworks by the sculptor in the extensive sculpture collection of the Berlin Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum. Presumed lost in the fire of the Friedrichshain Bunker in 1945, it was in fact heavily damaged and secretly transferred to the Soviet Union in 1946, where it had entered the collections of the Moscow State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. It has recently resurfaced in a collaboration research project led by the Moscow and Berlin museums since 2015. The authorship of the work in question had posed a problem for the scholars for a long time, as the relief had been deprived of an autograph Donatello status by H.W. Janson’s definitive 1957 monograph on the sculptor, and was given instead to a mysterious “Master of the Berlin Flagellation”, tentatively placed into early 16th century. A comprehensive study of the artwork itself and of its iconographical sources have permitted the author of the present paper to clarify some important questions of authenticity and authorship pertaining to this work. The proposed identification of the author of the marble relief with an Anglo-American expatriate sculptor Thomas Waldo Story working in Rome (1854–1915), is backed up by considerable stylistic arguments and biographical data obtained in collaboration with Lynn Catterson. A masterpiece of museum-class forgery, an object with an impeccably constructed provenance, the “Berlin Flagellation” serves to broaden the history of Italian late 19th century art market and museum collecting worldwide. As an immediate consequence, another important but controversial marble relief ascribed to Donatello, the so-called Hildburgh relief from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, is hereby relegated to the same hand, as is yet another marble relief in private possession, formerly attributed to Donatello and Luca della Robbia.
The Italian dealer-collector, Stefano Bardini, played an important role in the formation and presentation of the Jacquemart-André collection in Paris, evident even today when compared to to Museo Bardini in Florence. Relations between the collectors, Edouard and Nélie, and Bardini probably began during one of the couple’s first visits to Italy in 1882. Archival evidence dates the earliest transactions with Bardini to 1884. They also likely met Bardini in Paris as he was often there and maintained two storerooms at 11 Rue Saint-Simon. This relationship lasted after the death of Edouard André in 1894, when Nélie continued to acquire Italian objects from Bardini. Careful examination of correspondence exchanged between the dealer and the André, preserved in the Jacquemart-André and Bardini archives, enables a rich and detailed reconstruction of their relationship and a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of the transactions of objects. Curiously, although there were times that Nélie was dissatisfied with Bardini, he remained for her the privileged correspondent for Italian acquisitions. There are more than fifty objects from Mr. Bardini in the Jacquemart-André collection, most of which were purchased by Nélie during the two London sales of Stefano Bardini in 1899 and 1902. This paper examines the relationship between the collectors Jacquemart-André and the dealer-advisor Bardini within the broader context the art market at the turn of the century.
On the basis of unpublished archival material preserved in the Zentralarchiv of the Berlin Museums, Fulvia Zaninelli’s essay explores for the first time the relationship between the Italian art dealer Alessandro Contini Bonacossi (1878–1955) and the German art historian Wilhelm von Bode. In proving once again Bode’s immense influence on the international art market scene of the last century, the detailed analysis of their correspondence put forward in this essay demonstrates the interplay between connoisseurship and the field of art dealing. Contini Bonacossi and Bode’s acquaintance occurred between 1914 and 1926, which were the seminal years of Contini Bonacossi’s coming of age as one of the most successful Italian dealers of the last century. In addition to his expertise, Bode had acquired first-hand knowledge of art collections in the United States during his two visits in 1893 and 1911.All of this would be brought to bear in their relationship, influencing Contini Bonacossi’s strategies with American clients in the following decades. Zaninelli demonstrates the powerful role the German scholar played in Contini Bonacossi’s success as expert, curator, and as an opaque market mediator. Bode was probably influential in helping Contini Bonacossi unlock the American art market, vetting the dealer’s purchases and in introducing him to his many overseas connections, among them Wilhelm Valentiner. In addition, Bode offered curatorial advice to Contini Bonacossi with respect to the display and installation of his often praised gallerie. This feature revealed itself to be a key marketing tool in the dealer’s success in the United States.