Old Masters, New World: America's Raid on Europe's Great Pictures

Cynthia Saltzman, Author . Viking $27.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-670-01831-4

As these two books show, art has long been about business, status—and sometimes even the love of art.

Old Masters, New World: America's Raid on Europe's Great Pictures Cynthia Saltzman . Viking , $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-670-01831-4

In this vividly narrated and highly informative study, Saltzman (The Portrait of Dr. Gachet ), a former reporter for Forbes and the Wall Street Journal , examines American collectors like Henry Clay Frick and J. Pierpont Morgan who developed America's great Old Master collections, like those at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Banker and railroad magnate Henry Marquand gave 50 Old Masters to the Met, among them Vermeer's Young Woman with a Water Pitcher . Marquand believed in the museum's capacity to educate the public, while Gardner and Morgan modeled themselves after Renaissance patrons. A Gainsborough and Raphael were among Morgan's cultural conquests in a “vast, encyclopedic collecting project.” Gardner's passion for Italian Renaissance art and her complicated relationship with Renaissance specialist Bernard Berenson, who arranged for the acquisition of the most important work in her collection, Titian's Rape of Europa , is one of the book's highlights. Saltzman deftly demonstrates that the often highly competitive process and volatile acquisition of “cultural capital” by dealers and their eager employers gives fascinating and important insight into the often fraught fusion of culture and commodity that built world-class American collections. Photos. (Aug. 18)

Reviewed on: 06/16/2008
Release date: 08/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
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