Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 140



138
Selling Botticelli to America: Colnaghi, Bernard Berenson and the sale of the Madonna of the Eucharist to Isabella Stewart Gardner
first important American client, Colnaghi transformed
Venetian Painters of the Renaissance, in that year gave
their business – just as she transformed her collection
him the opportunity to re-establish the relationship.
– becoming by 1900 one of the most important Old
He sent her a copy of the book, she responded
Master dealerships of the Gilded Age.
enthusiastically, asking him for advice on paintings
that she was considering buying; within a short
Fig. 1 / Sandro Botticelli,
Story of Lucretia, 1499-1500,
tempera and oil on panel,
83.8 x 176.8 cm, Boston,
Isabella Stewart Gardner
Museum.
Fig. 2 / Bernard Berenson,
Florence, Biblioteca Berenson,
Villa I Tatti.
Isabella Stewart Gardner first met Berenson when he
space of time he became an, initially informal, art
was a student at Harvard and both were attending
consultant. On 1 August 1894, at the end of a letter
the classes on Dante given by Professor Charles
in which he had given his rather lukewarm opinions
Eliot Norton. She and her husband helped finance
on photographs she had sent him, he closed, almost
Bernard Berenson’s education at Harvard and his
casually, with the offer, not of a Venetian painting, but
trip to Europe in 1887. However, in the intervening
a picture by the great Florentine master, Botticelli,
seven years between 1887 and 1894, he lost touch with
whose star was then ascendant after almost five
his former patron. The publication of his first book,
centuries of neglect:
Selling Botticelli to America: Colnaghi, Bernard Berenson and the sale of the Madonna of the Eucharist to Isabella Stewart Gardner
139

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