The Connoisseur and the Spiritual History of Art: Morelli and Berenson
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In the mid-nineteenth century, finding and purchasing Italian Renaissance or Gothic paintings was very problematic and indeed an adventure. Attributions were anecdotal and often inaccurate. Artworks were often in very bad condition, and primitive and untested restoration procedures usually made the quality of paintings even worse.1 Because knowledge and codification of Italian art was only beginning to emerge as an area of scholarly interest in the mid-nineteenth century, forgeries and copies had not yet been distinguished from originals. Eastlake and other English officials often relied on guidebooks such as Murray’s handbooks as they sought Italian art for purchasing. While German scholars increasingly studied art history and established art theories, Italian officials were only beginning to show concern for their nation’s art. Increasingly German national museum officials entered the Italian art scene, led by Waagen, Rumohr, and later Wilhelm Bode of the Berlin Gallery. By mid-century, American millionaires were also purchasing Italian art, providing a new capital that by the twentieth century completely altered the nature of the market. As national museums and wealthy individuals increasingly competed in the art market for Italian Old Masters, the need for specialists who could confirm attributions and ensure originality arose.
KeywordsNational Gallery Spiritual History English Official Outward Form Italian Painter
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