Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 151

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
written to inform Isabella that Prince Chigi (fig. 13)
On 15 April a formal letter was despatched from
was “getting his courage up to sell his pictures.” “You
Colnaghi to Prince Chigi written in French in Deprez’s
probably know them. Three or four are really good,”
hand (fig. 14), stating that some time ago they had
he wrote, enclosing a photograph of the Botticelli,
asked “one of our friends in Rome, Dr Pardo,” to get in
“which Morelli, in his book on the Borghese Gallery
touch with the prince, but that Pardo had been unable
praises highly.” Norton “judged [it] to be a really lovely
to obtain an audience. They were therefore requesting
picture [that] with a little cleaning would be worthy of
that he be granted a meeting and suggested that future
being placed among your treasures.” Norton concluded
negotiations could be conducted by Pardo as their
by advising Gardner to “let Berenson know at once”
representative in Rome.29 That same day Deprez wrote
because there was a chance it might be for sale.25
to Pardo expressing concern about the lack of news
regarding the Botticelli and the potential competition
By December 1898 things had progressed sufficiently
for the painting; they should lose no time in trying
for Colnaghi to engage the services of a man on
to progress the deal.30 Furthermore, they were also
the spot – a certain Dr Enrico Pardo – to act as an
concerned that Venturi, who Deprez stated (wrongly)
intermediary with the prince. But, after this promising
had discovered the picture, might be corruptible and
start, things began to falter, and in February 1899
could pose a threat.31
Gutekunst wrote suggesting that Berenson should call
on the prince:
By mid-April the situation had improved, and it seemed
as though Deprez and Pardo were making progress
Would you care to call on Chigi, if you
with the prince, but Colnaghi scented that there were
know him? If not, it is no use, but if you do,
rivals after the picture.32 On the 15 April Gutekunst
you might cautiously refer to the Botticelli,
attempt to ascertain who has seen it and
But neither Berenson nor Pardo seem to have managed
were to have a chance, they needed to up their offer
made offers. So far, we know from Pardo that
to establish communication with the prince, and by
from £4000 to £10,000:
other people have seen it and made offers, but
14 April 1899 there was still no news from Chigi.
the Prince has given us the promise not to sell
Gutekunst was beginning to get worried that the
15 April 1899, Telegram from Otto
without letting us know and our last offer was
prince was either going cold or negotiating with other
Gutekunst to Bernard Berenson
£4000. Should we instruct Pardo to proceed
dealers. “We are getting somewhat nervous,” he
Berenson Fiesole Florence.
and try to buy even at £5000?
confided in a letter to Berenson, “in fact I think we
Botticelli in danger can possibly buy for
ought to write again. Bode says that Murray has been
10,000 pounds must act at once wire fully
most active in Italy and that during the last year or
Otto. 14 Pall Mall East SW.
A page later, Gutekunst added: “It may be dangerous
to wait and give the Prince time to find out the value of
Fig. 13 / Paolocci,
Portrait of Prince Mario
Chigi, engraving, 1878.
his picture and for everybody to discover or hear about
the picture.”
wired to Berenson urging immediate action – if they
so almost everything quite good has been carried off
Fig. 14 / Letter from Colnaghi
to Prince Chigi, 15 April 1899,
written by Edmund Deprez.
by him for Agnews! He mentions the Palazzi Doria,
On 22 April Gutekunst wrote again to Berenson to
Patrizi, Chigi etc.”
report that Pardo had succeeded in gaining entry to


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