Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 167



164
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
165
N OTES
1.
See Jeremy Howard, “Colnaghi, Bernard Berenson
and Mrs Gardner’s first Botticelli,” in Colnaghi-Past,
Present and Future: An Anthology, eds. Tim WarnerJohnson and Jeremy Howard (London: Colnaghi,
2016) pp. 21-25.
2. Patricia Lee Rubin, “Pictures with a Past: Botticelli in
Boston,” in Botticelli: Heroines + Heroes, ed. Nathaniel
Silver, exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner
Museum, 2018), pp. 11-31. I extremely grateful to
Professor Rubin for making available to me her text in
advance of publication.
3. The Colnaghi Archives are now largely housed at
Windmill Hill, in the grounds of Waddesdon Manor,
near Aylesbury.
4. Quoted in Rollin van N. Hadley, ed., The Letters of
Bernard Berenson and Isabella Stewart Gardner, (Boston:
Northeastern University Press 1987), p. 39
5. In the case of the Holbein portraits of Sir William
and Lady Butts (Boston, Gardner Museum). See
below p.145. For an interesting discussion of the
background to this case and the wider context
of Berenson’s rather duplicitous relationship with
Isabella Stewart Gardner in his dealings with
Colnaghi, see Alan Chong, “Isabella Gardner,
Bernard Berenson and Otto Gutekunst,” in ColnaghiThe History, ed. Jeremy Howard (London: Colnaghi,
2010), Chapter 4, especially pp. 30-31.
6. Ionides owned both the Botticelli Portrait of Smeralda
Bandinelli which had belonged to Rossetti, Rossetti’s
Day Dream, and Burne-Jones’s The Mill. All three
paintings were later bequeathed by him to the
Victoria and Albert Museum.
7. Henry James, “Autumn in Florence,” Italian Hours,
ed. John Auchard (New York and London: Penguin
Books, 1995), p. 245.
8. Meryle Secrest, Being Bernard Berenson: A Biography
(London: Penguin Books by arrangement with Holt,
Rinehart and Winston, 1979), p. 120.
9. See Oliver Tostmann, “Bernard Berenson and
America’s Discovery of Sandro Botticelli,” in
Botticelli 2015-1445, exh. cat. (Berlin and London:
Gemäldegalerie and Victoria and Albert Museum,
2016), p. 106.
10. Although it had been spotted three years earlier
hanging in Lord Ashburnham’s town house by Mary
Costelloe (the future Mary Berenson) and recorded in
her notebook, now in the Berenson Archive at Villa
I Tatti. The relevant page from the notebook was
illustrated in Howard Colnaghi-The History, p. 23. I am
extremely grateful to Ilaria della Monica, Archivist of
the Berenson Archive, for drawing this to my attention.
11. See Berndt Lindemann, “Colnaghi, Bode and the
Berlin Museum (Not Forgetting Friedlander),” in
Howard, Colnaghi-The History, p. 21.
12. According to a letter from Gutekunst to Berenson,
8 June 1899, Colnaghi Archive: no. Col.143, f.45,
although Bode made no mention of this in his
memoirs.
13. On 20 December, Colnaghi wrote to Ashburnham
saying they had received instructions from Barings
bank to pay his lordship “£2500 as agreed-reserving
£50 as commission,” Colnaghi Archive: Letterbook,
no. Col/1/4/2, f. 91, Colnaghi to Lord Ashburnham,
20 Dec 1894, f. 91.
14. Colnaghi Archive: Private Ledger, 20 December 1894,
p. 157.
15. Colnaghi Archive: Letterbook, no. Col 1/4/2, f. 106,
Gutekunst to Berenson, 31 January 1895.
16. Giovanni Morelli, Italian Painters: Critical Studies of Their
Works: The Borghese and Doria-Pamphilij Galleries in Rome,
trans. Constance Jocelyn Ffoulkes (London: John
Murray, 1892), p. 83. First published by Morelli in
German as Ivan Lermolieff [pseudonym for Giovanni
Morelli], Kunstkritische Studien über italienische Malerei: Die
Galerien Borghese und Doria Pampfili in Rom (Leipzig: F.A.
Brockhaus, 1890), p. 106.
17. Lady Eastlake, for example, in 1858, wrote of him
as being one of the “truly great” Florentine masters
along with Botticelli, Filippo Lippi, and Filippino
Lippi, see Francis Haskell, Rediscoveries in Art (Oxford:
Phaidon, 1980), p. 20.
18. Susanna Avery-Quash, The Travel Notebooks of Sir
Charles Eastlake, 2 vols. (London: The Walpole Society,
London, 2011), p. 281.
19. Wilhelm von Bode, Mein Leben, eds. Thomas W.
Gaetghens and Barbara Paul (Berlin: Nicolai,1997), p.
66. Bode apparently was offered the
Chigi collection en bloc through an intermediary, la
Principessa Sciarra, whose husband’s later, sensational
prosecution for alleged infringement of the Pacca
Edict, was a notabl precursor to the Chigi trial. The
price quoted was 45,000 francs, although Bode did
not make it clear whether this was for the whole
collection or just for the Botticelli. Bode wrote that
“we were interested in the early Botticelli masterpiece,
which 30 years later was sold for twenty-times the
price.” I am extremely grateful to Professor Gaetghens
for drawing this reference to my attention.
20. First in a letter from Gutekunst to Berenson on 6
October 1898, Colnaghi Archive: Letterbooks, no.
Col. 1/4/3, f. 107, the second in a subsequent letter
written on 28 October of that year. Colnaghi Archive:
Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f. 159/60.
21. Ibid., f. 159-160.
22. Letter 10 November 1998, Otto Gutekunst to
Bernard Berenson (Colnaghi Archive: Letterbooks,
no. Col 1/4/3, f. 175): “We will not lose sight of the
Chigi business, which is well in hand.”
23. Ibid., f. 202: “We are also quite willing to entertain
cooperation with you and W [presumably Asher
Wertheimer] in the manner you indicate. No news from
Chigi! None from me then!!” The Colnaghi account
books reveal that the Botticelli was eventually bought in
one-third shares by Berenson, Wertheimer and Colnaghi.
24. I am indebted to Patricia Lee Rubin for drawing this
to my attention.
25. Norton to Isabella Stewart Gardner, 23 December
1898, in Letters of Richard Norton to Isabella
Stewart Gardner, Papers of Isabella Stewart Gardner,
1897-1906, Smithsonian Institution Archives:
Archives of American Art, Washington. Quoted by
Rubin, “Pictures with a Past,” p. 23, to whom I am
grateful for this reference.
26. Pardo is mentioned in the office copy of a letter
written on 5 Dec 1898, Colnaghi Archive:
Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f. 219: Colnaghi to
Messrs Plowden & Co, Rome:

“Dear Sirs,
We beg leave to confirm our letter of November 17th
and to inform you that our friend Mr Enrico Pardo
of 126 Corso, Rome, is now negotiating on our behalf
with Mr Sanguinetti... for the final disposal of the
deposit now in your hands”.

It is not clear who Mr Sanguinetti was (possibly the
Prince’s agent?), and there is no mention in this letter
of the Botticelli, but it is quite likely that Colnaghi were
arranging lines of credit in preparation for attempting
to purchase the painting. Pardo’s name appears in the
final accounts of the Botticelli transaction.
27. Gutekunst to Berenson, Colnaghi Archive:
Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, ff. 343-344.
28. Gutekunst to Berenson, 14 April 1899, Colnaghi
Archive: Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f. 396.
29. Colnaghi to Chigi, 15 April 1899, Colnaghi Archive:
Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f. 401.
30. Deprez to Pardo, 15 April 1899, Colnaghi Archive:
Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f. 403.
31. Priority here should in fact be given to Morelli who
identified the picture in 1890 and published it before
Adolfo Venturi. However, the latter undoubtedly
provided significant endorsement when he included it
“with a beautiful photograph by Anderson of Roma”
in Tesori d’arte inedita di Roma (Rome, 1896), III. The
picture, which was very dirty when seen by Eastlake,
was cleaned by Luigi Cavanaghi of Milan, following
its first publication by Morelli, and moved from the
ground floor to the piano nobile, doubtless reflecting its
new-found importance.
32. Gutekunst to Berenson, 22 April 1899, Colnaghi
Archive: Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f. 415: “Pardo
may be able to ascertain who else is in the market,
Agnew for certain, I think, possibly Richter for Mond.”
33. Deprez expressed scepticism to Pardo about whether
the rumour of an offer by one of the Rothschilds had
substance: “l’histoire de Rothschild de Londres est
un conte de fees.” Deprez to Pardo, 21 April 1899,
Colnaghi Archive: Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f. 406.
34. Which corresponded to around £6800 ($34,000) in 1899.
35. Gutekunst to Berenson, 22 April 1899, Colnaghi
Archive: Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f. 414.
36. 22 April 1899, Deprez to Pardo, Colnaghi Archive:
Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f. 408: “Je comprends
parfaitement le point de vue de son Excellence et
j’entre dans les motifs qui lui eut suggere cette idee.
37.
38.
39.
40.
41.
42.
43.
44.
45.
46.
Mais cela ne m’empeche pas de la considerer comme
impracticable et meme dangereuse, tout de meme
dans la forme ou elle est presente dans votre lettre.
Je veux dire au point de vue des interêts du Prince
meme, car comment garder le secret si on suit la
procedure qu’il indique? Et la vente faite en presence
de tant d’écrivains, si le tableau reste a un etranger,
comment S.E evitera de tomber sous le coup de
l’edit Pacca(?), et, si un des concurrents désappointe
commettait une indiscretion, non seulement le Prince
pourrait avoir des desagrements, mais l’acheteur, si
un etranger, pourrait se trouver dans l’impossibilite
d’exporter son tableau.”
Gutekunst to Berenson, 5 May 1899, Colnaghi
Archive: Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f. 423: “Deprez
wrote a long letter to Pardo asking him to do his
utmost to persuade the Prince of the disadvantages
of such a proceeding and the risk to him, as it is sure
to become known etc, & to try to get a figure named
at which he would sell now, and privately, but so far
he has apparently not been successful and we fear the
sale will be the only means of getting the picture.”
Ibid.
Colnaghi to Messrs Barclay, 18 May 1899, Colnaghi
Archive: Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f. 435:
“Gentlemen. We beg leave to open a credit for 12,000
guineas with your correspondent at Rome, in favour
of our Mr Deprez who is going there to complete
the purchase of a picture of Botticelli. Should this be
effected we shall as usual hold the picture fully insured
until payment of the advance.”
Deprez to Pardo, 1 May 1899, Colnaghi Archive:
Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f. 419: “Envoyez-moi les
dimensions du panneau sans le cadre, c’est pour une malle.”
Gutekunst to Berenson, 5 May 1899, Colnaghi
Archive: Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f. 423: “Your
share in the Chigi is assured; not so the purchase...
Let us know all you know about this. Is there anybody
in Florence after the picture? & is it Murray’s agent?
...Who by the way told you, or how did you find
out that Murray offered L.160,000 [approximately
£6400] for the picture? It is a clue or may be if you
tell us... Wertheimer feels very strongly in the matter
and has made up his mind not to be beaten at any
price by Agnews. Murray has gone to Italy, by the
way. Bode also is at Florence.”
Gutekunst to Berenson, telegram 18 May 1899,
Colnaghi Archive: Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f. 440.
Gutekunst to Berenson, 25 May 1899, Colnaghi
Archive: Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f. 442.
The Cellini bust of Bindo Altiviti sold by Colnaghi
and Berenson to Gardner in July 1898.
“Mrs J” refers to Mrs Jack Gardner, i.e. Isabella
Stewart Gardner.
Telegram from William McKay to Edmund Deprez at
Hotel Marini, Rome, Colnaghi Archive: Letterbooks,
no. Col. 1/4/3, f. 446: “Outside limit ten try much
less William. P & D Colnaghi.”
47. Gutekunst to Berenson, 8 June 1899, Colnaghi
Archive: Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f.454, and, in
an official letter of the same date, f. 456.
48. The technique employed was to use a false-bottomed
trunk, a stratagem employed later that same year
by Bernard Berenson with the Gardner Museum’s
Piermatteo d’Amelia’s Annunication. See Nathaniel
Silver, Close-Up-Piermatteo d’Amelia’s ‘Annunciation’, exh.
cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum,
2016), pp. 20-21.
49. As recounted in the obituary of Edmund Deprez, The
Times, 13 January 1915, p. 11.
50. Deprez to Pardo, 6 June 1899, Colnaghi Archive:
Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3: “Cher Monsieur Pardo,
Je suis bien arrive a Londres dimanche soir avec le
tableau en excellent etats.”
51. For a contemporary summary of the legal proceedings
against the Prince and the Italian heritage laws see
Mario B. Paoli, “La vendita di un Botticelli e le leggi
prottetive delle opera d’arte,” Rassegna Nazionale 90
(1899): pp. 232-243.
52. The Times, 4 November 1901.
53.Ibid.
54. Athenaeum, 2 March 1901, p. 282.
55. This picture was dismissed as a workshop variant by
Herbert Horne, author of the first monograph in
English on Botticelli.
56. William McKay to Lord Ashburnham, 25 June 1894,
Colnaghi Archives: Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/1, f.
4: “May we again trouble your Lordship to view the
pictures at Dover Street in favour of Baron Edmond
de Rothschild who is on a visit to London.”
57. Berenson to Gardner, 23 May 1899, Hadley, The
Letters of Bernard Berenson, pp. 174-175.
58. Hadley, The Letters of Bernard Berenson, p. 176.
59. The actual purchase price was less than this
– £12,315 including Pardo’s commission. But
Gutekunst was obviously building in some leeway for
negotiation and also, presumably, allowing for the
shipping costs.
60. Gutekunst to Berenson, 9 June 1899, Colnaghi
Archive: Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f. 457.
61. Berenson to Gardner, 12 June 1899, Hadley, The Letters
of Bernard Berenson, pp. 180-181.
62. Gutekunst to Berenson, 26 June 1899, Colnaghi
Archive: Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f. 465: “My
dear Bernhard, I have just received your very
welcome wire and am along with the other partners
very pleased indeed. I feel greatly relieved; not
because I feared we could not sell the picture but
because we had to some extent lost heart generally
owing to an all-round depression caused by slack
business and McKay’s illness and so forth.”
63. P & D Colnaghi to Canossa, 26 July 1899, Colnaghi
Archive: Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f. 477: “Ainsi
que nous avons dit, deja nous serions acheteurs du
Titien ‘L’amour divin et l’amour profain’ pour la
somme de trois millions cent soixante quinze mille
64.
65.
66.
67.
68.
69.
70.
71.
72.
73.
74.
75.
76.
77.
78.
79.
francs, prix net couvrant tous frais et commission
payable a Marseille, contre livraison du tableau en
bonne et intacte condition, sans cadre.”
Berenson to Gardner, 13 July 1899, Hadley, The Letters
of Bernard Berenson, p. 182: “the keystone to an arch of
the building to which all along I have devoted my best
energies.”
Ernest Samuels, Bernard Berenson, The Making of a
Connoisseur (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1979), p.
307, states that the deal fell through because
the money could not be prised from the trustees.
However, a report in The Times, 27 January 1902, says
that the deal foundered because of difficulties getting
an export licence.
The picture had been entrusted for safe keeping to
Fernand Robert, 30 Rue Joubert, Paris, who hid the
picture while the Chigi trials were still in process.
Berenson to Gardner, November 1900 [undated],
Hadley, The Letters of Bernard Berenson, p. 234.
Gardner to Berenson, 26 November 1900, Hadley,
The Letters of Bernard Berenson, p. 235: “For the present
at least-No-No-No to Colnaghi!”
Berenson to Gardner, 3 December 1900, Hadley, The
Letters of Bernard Berenson, p. 236.
Deprez to Chigi, 6 March 1901, Colnaghi Archive:
Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f .40: “Monsieur le
Prince,Veuillez me permettre de vous exprimer la joie
sincère avec laquelle j’ai appris l’heureuse issue du
proces desagreable qui vient de se terminer et qui a
du vous causer pendant des mois tant d’ennuies.”
Ibid.: “J’espere que le bruit fait autour de cette affaire
portera fruit en ameutant le Gouvernement a modifier
dans un sens plus judicieux et raisonnable les lois et
le reglement sur la vente et l’exportation des oeuvres
d’art en Italie.”
Gardner to Berenson, 23 July 1901, Hadley, The Letters
of Bernard Berenson, p. 260.
Berenson to Gardner, 3 August 1901, Hadley, The
Letters of Bernard Berenson, p. 261.
Berenson to Gardner, 3 September 1901, Hadley, The
Letters of Bernard Berenson, p. 266.
Berenson to Gardner, 16 October 1901, Hadley, The
Letters of Bernard Berenson, p. 271: “That wretched man
Robert who seems to have a personal spite against
the Colnaghi’s, flatly denies that you have given
instructions to deliver up the Botticelli to them. So
I have cabled begging you to cable instructions to
Robert now.”
See Rubin, “Pictures with a Past,” p. 11. The original
article, also entitled “Pictures with a Past” linking
the Botticelli and the Gainsborough appeared in the
American periodical the Nation in December 1901.
The Times reviewer made the same connection.
Gutekunst to Berenson, 2 November 1901, Colnaghi
Archives: Letterbooks, no. Col. 1/4/3, f. 229.
Berenson to Gardner, 28 October 1901, Hadley, The
Letters of Bernard Berenson, p. 273.
Ibid.

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