Editorial

'I collect, therefore I am'

‘MY COLLECTION IS the result of my life’, wrote Lord Hertford, the proof of whose enthusiasms and taste are everywhere apparent today at the Wallace Collection. In this issue devoted to collectors and collecting it is, perhaps, Hertford and Albert C. Barnes – two contrasting but similarly reclusive figures – who emerge as truly obsessive in their lifelong passion for acquiring works of art. In the article on Hertford (pp.544–47) we see him taking his first, and obviously intoxicated, steps into the world of objets de luxe; in that on Barnes (pp.534–43) we witness not only first steps but the fully flowered megalomania of this driven autodidact. In the case of Pietro Mellini in seventeenth-century Rome (pp.512–20), it was a matter of cherishing the inherited family collections and judiciously adding to them. With Count von Brühl we cannot be sure of the motives behind his acquisitions but presumably – as with many collectors – they were a mix of personal taste and commercial opportunism with, on his part, some political one-upmanship (pp.529–33). In the article on the banker-dealer Godefroy (pp.521–28), commerce reigns supreme in his buying and selling of old masters, although he did have the foresight to commission Chardin to paint portraits of his sons. Elsewhere in this issue, reviews chronicle some of the great patrician family collectors in Italy for whom patronage of contemporary artists and collecting went hand in hand.

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  • The inventory of Pietro Mellini’s collection at the Palazzo del Rosario in 1680

    By Jorge Fernández-Santos Ortiz-Iribas

    MOST OF THE impressive art collections of the leading noble families in Rome have been dispersed, yet their study is still of interest. This article draws attention to the collection of a nobleman of the middle rank, Pietro Mellini (c.1651–94; Fig.1). He came of an illustrious family of old Roman stock which, however, lacked the financial boost that the election to the papacy of one of their number would have allowed. Yet Mellini’s collection contained a fine and representative selection of masters of the cinquecento and seicento.

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  • The banker Charles Godefroy and his dealings in paintings, or the secrets of an account book revealed (1738–48)

    By François Marandet

    OUR KNOWLEDGE OF collecting during the Ancien Régime has expanded considerably in recent years thanks to the study of guides, sale catalogues and inventories, but the circulation of works of art at the same period remains a much less well-documented aspect of collecting. The annotations found in sale catalogues or the inventories compiled by art dealers provide only very fragmentary information about the complexities of the art market at the time. Dealers’ account books are the only documents that can disclose precise details about the financial gains (or losses) that were involved. It seemed that such a document pertaining to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French art had not survived, but a recently discovered example is presented here for the first time. It is the account book (see Appendix) of the firm of the banker–jeweller Charles Godefroy and the paintings restorer Ferdinand-Joseph Godefroid who set up business in Paris in the early eighteenth century, as we know from Edme-François Gersaint’s introduction to the 1748 sale catalogue of Charles Godefroy’s estate. It is now possible to trace the history of this business in detail.

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  • Two works by Chardin in the collection of Count Heinrich von Brühl

    By Tobias Burg

    THE PRIME MINISTER of Saxony Count Heinrich von Brühl (1700–63; Fig.15) who, after Augustus III, was the decisive political figure at the court of the Saxon elector and Polish king, has had an almost exclusively bad press ever since his death. He was considered partly, if not wholly, responsible for ruining Saxony’s state finances, not least because of shameless embezzlement. A pamphlet of 1927, for instance, summarises the low opinion in which he is still held: ‘From the very start, Brühl’s career was marked by the most unbridled and fanatical egotism. His natural abilities – hypocritical agility and dishonest obsequiousness – served a single purpose: that of filling his pockets with state property’. Such an assessment, however, is based on an opinion of Brühl’s actions formed immediately after his death – at a moment where there was a need for a scapegoat to explain the many and multifarious reasons why, in 1763, at the end of the Seven Years’ War, Saxony was politically and economically devastated. Brühl’s historical role has yet to be objectively assessed – and the granting of access to the extensive archive material on eighteenth-century Saxon politics, primarily stored at the Saxon Main State Archive in Dresden, represents a first important step in this direction.

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  • The origins of the Barnes Collection, 1912–15

    By Colin B. Bailey

    THE CHRONOLOGY OF Albert C. Barnes’s collecting in the period 1910–20 has been fairly well documented. After making several unexceptional purchases at auction in New York early in 1912, in February of that year Barnes (Fig.19) sent his childhood friend, the Ashcan painter William Glackens (1870–1938) – or Butts, as he called him – to Paris with $20,000 to buy modern art. Glackens brought back fine paintings by Van Gogh, Renoir, Cézanne, Picasso, Monet and Sisley, and Barnes was launched. In late May and December of the same year, Barnes himself went on two more buying trips to Paris. Through his exposure to the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists in dealers’ galleries and the sale rooms, and through conversations with collectors and artists, Barnes developed nothing less than a passion for the work of Renoir – whom he considered the greatest of all painters – and for Cézanne; a strong interest in early Picasso; and an admiration, rather guarded at this point, for Matisse. Back home at Overbrook, Pennsylvania, Barnes remained committed to progressive Independents among the Americans – he regularly acquired paintings by William Glackens, Alfred Maurer, Ernest Lawson and Maurice Prendergast – and he immersed himself in the comparatively meagre art-historical literature and criticism dealing with the modern movement. In an impassioned letter of January 1915 to his lawyer, the ageing Philadelphian collector John Grover Johnson (1841–1917), Barnes stated: ‘For over three years I’ve given more time and effort in trying to find out what is a good painting than I’ve ever given to any other subject in my life’.

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  • Curiosity and Enlightenment. Collectors and Collections from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century

    By Celina Fox
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  • Lorenzo de’ Medici: Collector and Antiquarian

    By Alison Wright
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  • Ferrante Gonzaga. Un principe del Rinascimento

    By David S. Chambers
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  • The Arts of Spain, Iberia and Latin America 1450–1700

    By Rosemarie Mulcahy
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  • Cosimo I de’ Medici and his Self-representation in Florentine Art and Culture

    By Andrea Gáldy
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  • Ottavio Costa (1554–1639), le sue case e i suoi quadri. Ricerche d’archivio Caravaggio, Annibale Carracci, Guido Reni tra le ricevute del banco Herrera & Costa

    By Xavier F. Salomon
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  • Il collezionismo d’arte a Venezia. Il Seicento

    By Michael Levey
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  • I disegni del Codice Resta di Palermo

    By Genevieve Warwick
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  • Catalogue des peintures italiennes du Musée du Louvre

    By William Mostyn-Owen
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  • Italian Drawings in the Department of Prints and Drawings, Statens Museum for Kunst: Neapolitan Drawings

    By David Scrase
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  • Caravaggio, Annibale Carracci, Guido Reni tra le ricevute del banco Herrera & Costa

    By Xavier F. Salomon
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  • The Lure of the East

    By Melanie Vandenbrouck
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  • Eighteenth-century bluestockings. London

    By Susan Jenkins
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  • Klimt. Liverpool

    By Leslie Topp
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  • Impressionist interiors. Dublin

    By Paula Murphy
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  • Figuration Narrative. Paris

    By Sarah Wilson
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  • Dutch primitives. Rotterdam

    By Stephan Kemperdick
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  • Garofalo. Ferrara

    By Arvi Wattel
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  • Impressionists and their technique. Cologne and Florence

    By Louis van Tilborgh
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  • Fontainebleau. Washington and Houston

    By John House
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  • Merian. Los Angeles

    By Elizabeth Alice Honig
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