Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 153



150
Selling Botticelli to America: Colnaghi, Bernard Berenson and the sale of the Madonna of the Eucharist to Isabella Stewart Gardner
Selling Botticelli to America: Colnaghi, Bernard Berenson and the sale of the Madonna of the Eucharist to Isabella Stewart Gardner
151
the Palazzo Chigi, though had not been successful in
THE PRINCE’S “PRIVATE AUCTION”
Pardo to obtain exact measurements of the painting
competition. The underbidder was initially thought
gaining an audience with the prince:
On 22 April, the same day that Gutekunst had
so that he could order a special trunk in case they
to be Agnews and Charles Fairfax Murray, though
written the letter just quoted to Berenson, the prince
were successful. Berenson had also been told to try
Gutekunst later reported that it was the German
He saw the majordomo who told him that
finally summoned Pardo to his palace and dropped a
to find out who their competitors were: Murray had
Emperor acting on behalf of the Berlin Museums.47
Chigi has been much pestered by people
bombshell. Having received various offers, including
been rumoured to have made a large offer and was
wanting to see and buy this picture etc etc
one of 170,000 lire, he had decided to hold a private
reported to be in Italy. Agnews were also potential
auction in Rome the following month and was even
rivals, and Bode was within easy striking distance
On Pardo stating that he did not come on a
proposing to send out invitations to prospective
in Florence.41 Despite the competition, Gutekunst
AND UNORTHODOX EXPORT
fishing expedition or on jobbing, he behaved
bidders.35 “This,” concluded Gutekunst, “is of course
was optimistic and wired Berenson “Hope successful
Having successfully bought the picture, Colnaghi
very civilly & told him that “Rothschild of
very silly and won’t do at all from your point of view…
conclusion Madonna early next week.” But then,
then very quickly had to work out how to get it out
London” was wanting to buy the Botticelli &
Besides, we are pointing out to him in a long letter that
four days before the date set for the sale, the prince
of Italy. In the Colnaghi letterbooks there is a copy
had offered up to Lire 200,000.
the matter would in this way come out and get him
dropped another bombshell, announcing that he was
telegram instructing the shippers Aigrette to insure
into a mess with the Government.” Furthermore, a
postponing the auction: “a monstrous thing to do,”
the painting in transit to London via France. The
Upon this I wired you and on receipt of your
public auction would be counter-productive because “a
wrote Gutekunst, “after summoning the competition
plan was for Colnaghi partner, Edmund Deprez,
answer we thought we'd better make quite
buyer at such a price does not want it known publically
from all points.”
supplying a Roman address, to spirit the picture out
sure, in case we have to pay the full price and
and a high price will only be paid privately according
you and Mrs J [Mrs Jack Gardner] should
to general experience.” It was vital, Deprez wrote to
Fortunately, the postponement was only temporary
In the meantime, someone (possibly one of the
no longer be in the market for certain. We
Pardo, that the prince be warned of the consequences
and, later in the same letter, Gutekunst wrote, “We just
disappointed underbidders) had tipped off the
therefore in accordance with our former
of his action. A private auction would attract the notice
had a telegram from D [Deprez] saying we hope to
Italian authorities. Having got wind of this, Deprez
agreement, went and proposed the whole
of the Italian government, and the prince would be in
conclude early next week…. I cannot tell you any more
took an earlier train than planned, escaping shortly
thing to Wertheimer, telling him all about
danger of being prosecuted under the so-called Pacca
now, but I hope it may be so and not last as long as that
before the authorities arrived.49 By 7 June he and
the picture and its chances and indicating
Edict, introduced to control the export of heritage
confounded bust of Bindo.”44 In the event that they
the picture were safely in London. 50 Prince Chigi
that there was a third person wishing to have
items from the Papal States; it might then prove
were successful:
was not so fortunate. He was prosecuted, threatened
a share having put us up to the picture and
impossible to export the picture.
34
40
42
43
of the country and thence via France to London.48
36
having a good chance of assisting in the sale.
So, if you are prepared to take a third share,
SUCCESSFUL PURCHASE
first with imprisonment, then with a huge fine,
We have told Wertheimer that you – that is
equivalent to the sale price. 51 In the aftermath of
Mrs J of course – will require the 1st refusal
the Risorgimento, a time of acute sensitivity over
Mrs J buying or not buying, up to any price
THE BATTLE FOR THE BOTTICELLI
of it and he consented under our assurance
the vulnerability of the Italian heritage, the case
we may have to go to, let me know & all will
Despite these warnings and Dr Pardo’s attempt to
that it would not affect his chances with his
was bound to attract publicity, and for a time it
be prepared as well.
dissuade him by pointing out the risks, the prince
clients in any way, because Mrs J has not
seemed as though the prince might be made an
decided to go ahead with his highly unorthodox
seen the picture itself and, if she refused it,
example of “pour encourager les autres.” However,
“Wertheimer,” concluded Gutekunst, “thinks very
private auction. 37 By 5 May, Gutekunst reported
would not talk.
prior to the introduction of “notification” and the
favourably of the business.”
to Berenson that invitations had been sent out to
45
harmonization of export controls in 1902, the legal
“some 10 or so people” and the date set for 29 May. 38
The consortium of Colnaghi, Berenson, and
position was, in fact, far from clear. The Times later
Deprez thought that the story of the Rothschild offer at a
Meanwhile Colnaghi were preparing for battle,
Wertheimer had hoped to buy the picture for
reported that “the Italian government were trying
figure greatly in excess of Colnaghi’s, was highly unlikely;
organizing a credit of 12,000 guineas with Barclay’s
£10,000, but had to increase their bid to £12,000
vainly to find some law under which the Prince
nevertheless the prince’s evasiveness was ominous.
bank’s correspondent in Rome. 39 Deprez had asked
in order to secure the picture in the face of stiff
could be prosecuted.”52
33
46

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