ARTFUL PARTNERS: Bernard Berenson and Joseph Duveen by Colin Simpson
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ARTFUL PARTNERS: Bernard Berenson and Joseph Duveen

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Scoundrels seem to make the most satisfying subjects for biography. Subscribing to this premise, Simpson has fashioned the biography of a pair of dealer rapscallions whose shadowy shenanigans, revealed here fully for the first time, make this one of the most exciting art books of the season. Not only were Berenson and Duveen rogues of classic proportions, but their scares were so outrageous they nearly defy belief. Fortunately, Simpson's research into their wheelings and dealings is well-nigh impeccable--with very few exceptions, every ""i"" is dotted, every ""t"" crossed. And when there is a problem with verification, the author is quick lo point it out and offer plausible explanations. This is an expose that will set art world tongues clacking for months to come. Simpson is also the possessor of a writing style that adds to the fun--witty, urbane, ironic. Even Berenson's and Duveen's most flamboyant art frauds are reported with little sense of outrage. When they are busily gulling the likes of Isabella Stewart Gardner, Mrs. Horace E. Dodge and Jules Bache, the social and artistic pretensions of their clients make their activities seem somewhat less reprehensible than might otherwise be the case. There are few ""innocents"" here. The narrative is peppered with amusing and revealing anecdotes, such as the story of how Duveen once refused to sell an important painting by Pollaiuolo to Benjamin Altman because the dealer was unable to pronounce the artist's name. Then, there is the revelation that the medieval arches that now grace the Cloisters in New York City were once part of a public bathhouse in Prades, France. Highly recommended for those seeking irreverent insights into the world of Botticellis and ballyhoo, forgeries and Fragonards. And a great fun read for all who enjoy scoundrels.

Pub Date: Feb. 27th, 1987
Publisher: Macmillan