Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 169



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Selling Botticelli to America: Colnaghi, Bernard Berenson and the sale of the Madonna of the Eucharist to Isabella Stewart Gardner
80. P & D Colnaghi to Isabella Stewart Gardner, 18
November 1901, Colnaghi Archives: Letterbooks, no.
Col. 1/4/3, f. 253:
“Madam, We beg leave to inform you that in
obedience to your wish, the Botticelli picture is leaving
tonight under the personal charge of our agent who
will see it safely aboard the “Sansonia” the Cunarder
sailing tomorrow from Liverpool direct for Boston...
We may add in explanation of our cablegram that,
under the instructions we originally received, we had
arranged for the picture to be exhibited until the end
of the present week, as, we understood you wished
it to arrive in Boston in the first week of December
and proposed accordingly to ship it per “Sylvania” on
the 26th Inst. It was only on Friday night we received
a telegram from Mr Berenson informing us of your
wish to have the picture shipped on the 18th but we
at once took steps to have everything ready for an
immediate shipment pending the answers to our
cablegram. We have the honour to be, Madam,
Your obedient servants
P and D Colnaghi.”
81. There was even talk that the Italian government
might prosecute Deprez and Pardo and bring an
action for the restitution of the picture, as stated in
an unidentified newspaper report entitled “Boston
may lose a picture,” 18 Jan 1901, Isabella Stewart
Gardner Museum Archive: Botticelli/Chigi Madonna
Newspaper cuttings file.
82. Fredrick Burton, Director of the National Gallery, and
Wilhelm von Bode, Director of the Berlin Museum,
both colluded in the smuggling of works of art from
Italy. Bode had an extremely close relationship with
the corrupt and extremely successful Florentine dealer
Stafano Bardini.
83. In an interview given by Jean Villemer entitled “La
Vente d’Un Botticelli-Le Prince Sciarra” which was
published in an unidentified French newspaper.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Archive:
Botticelli/Chigi Madonna Newspaper cuttings file.
84. Ibid.: “C’est une injustice flagrante que le code
italien, ayant aboli les majorats, en conserve les
obligations pour les collections des princes romains
qui peuvent mourir de faim dans leurs galleries
invendables.” Prince Sciarra’s prison sentence and
substantial fine, was eventually quashed after he
offered to donate around fifteen paintings from his
collection to the state museums.
85. For more detail on this see Tino Foffano, “Tutela e
valorazzione dei beni culturali,” Aevum (SeptemberDecember 2003): pp. 715-727.
86. Quoted by Vivian Wang, “Whose Responsibility?
The Waverley System, Past and Present,”
International Journal of Cultural History 15 (2008): pp.
227-269, p. 229.
87. “Lord Curzon and Art Treasures,” The Times, 4
October 1911, p. 11; quoted by Catherine Usher,
“The Curzon Report 1915, Grand Failure of
Prophetic Foresight,” (MA Thesis, University of
Buckingham, 2018), p. 42, to which I am indebted.
88. Even Sir Robert Witt, a prominent member of the
National Art Collections Fund, realized that an
Italian-style system of export controls would be
politically unacceptable in Britain. British Library:
Curzon Papers, IOR Mss Eur F/112/62/8, Letter
R.C. Witt to Lord Curzon 23 November 1911.
89. Dugald Sutherland MacColl, “The National Gallery,”
in The 19th Century and After (London: Spottiswoode &
Co, 1912) p. 24. I am extremely grateful to Catherine
Usher for drawing this reference to my attention.
90. See Wang, “Whose Responsibility?” pp. 227-269, and,
more generally, Helen Rees, “Art Exports and the
Construction of National Heritage in Late-Victorian
and Edwardian Great Britain,” in Economic Engagements
with Art, eds. Neil De Marchi and Craufurd D.
W. Goodwin (Durham, NC, and London: Duke
University Press, 1999), p. 200 ff.
91. See Frank Jewett Mather, Jr., “Safeguarding the
Art Treasures of Italy,” The North American Review
191 (1910): pp. 15-113. I am very grateful to Clico
Kingsbury for drawing this reference to my attention.
92. For a full account of this see the present author’s
“Titian’s Rape of Europa: its Reception in Britain and
Sale to America,” in The Reception of Titian in Britain
from Reynolds to Ruskin, ed. Peter Humfrey (Turnhout:
Brepols, 2013), pp. 189-202.
93. As noted by Hilliard Goldfarb, The Isabella Stewart Gardner
Museum (Yale: Yale University Press, 1995), p. 129.
94. Gardner to Berenson, 2 November 1901, Hadley, The
Letters of Bernard Berenson, p. 278. In this astonishingly
vitriolic letter Gardner, who was evidently determined
to inflict maximum inconvenience and embarrassment
on Colnaghi, directed that all the money “he has
raised by the exhibition for his charity (Gardner
repeatedly referred to the firm of Colnaghi in
personal terms, although Dominic Colnaghi had died
in 1879) should be placed to my account at Baring’s.
I will write to them and tell them what to do with it. I
will tell them what Colnaghi had the impertinence to
do, without my consent, and will request them to present
the money, in my name, to that charity, that it may
not be the loser.” She also blamed Colnaghi for delays
over the shipment of the Crivelli Saint George, though
Berenson pointed out in a letter to Gardner (15
November 1901) that “whatever fault there was in the
delay in forwarding it to Paris, was due to me rather
than them. I regret to have to repeat it again – it is
not agreeable to have you think les well of me – but in
fairness I must.”
95. Rubin, “Pictures with a Past,” p. 28; Barbara Strachey
and Jayne Samuels, Mary Berenson, A Self Portrait from
her Letters and Diaries (London: Victor Gollanz Ltd,
1983), p. 112.
Selling Botticelli to America: Colnaghi, Bernard Berenson and the sale of the Madonna of the Eucharist to Isabella Stewart Gardner
167

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