- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 5, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195396901
- ISBN-13: 978-0195396904
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.1 x 6.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,140,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The American Leonardo: A Tale of Obsession, Art and Money 1st Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
From Publishers Weekly
At first, the tale seems rather ordinary: in 1920, Andrée and Harry Hahn offer for sale a painting, La Belle Ferronnière, that they claim is by Leonardo da Vinci. An art dealer questions the painting's authenticity—and the couple sues. In the courtroom, the circus begins, with the usual one-upmanship of experts, cross-examinations and baffled jurors. In two other circus rings are the broader art market and the world of schemers, fakes and the truth about the painting itself. Brewer, a professor of humanities and social sciences at the California Institute of Technology, is a fine ringmaster. He paints thorough pictures of each player—the ambitious Midwesterner Harry Hahn; the rarified and aggressive art dealer Sir Joseph Duveen; and the numerous representatives who took on the challenge of selling a tainted painting: A large, hectoring man who was also capable of great charm, [Leon] Loucks... told his friends that he was an illegitimate child who had been abandoned by his shame-faced mother who 'sold' him to a medical research facility.... Is La Belle Ferronnière a Leonardo? That mystery drives the book forward, but also delivers a satisfying twist: why do we care? 12 b&w illus. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Brewer is a fine ringmaster.... He paints thorough pictures of each player."--Publishers Weekly
"A fascinating book...a gripping fable of the never-ending conflict between art and money."--The Mail on Sunday
"Excellent... has the unmistakable vibrancy of original research."--The Sunday Times
"Wholly engaging ... he rests an ambitious enquiry on a brisk, absorbing story. His book is a huge risk, and a triumph."--The Scotsman
Praise for Pleasures of the Imagination:
"Like all really original achievements, it makes us sharply rethink things we supposed we knew well."--Simon Schama
"Brewer takes us on a grand tour of the exciting, fluid, often raucous world of the 18th-century arts. . . . A brilliantly illustrated social history."--New York Times Book Review
"A magnificent achievement. . . . Enormous in its scope, astute in its choices of examples, learned in its resources, but written with an almost unfailing lucidity and accessibility."--New Republic
"Immensely rich and vividly and eloquently conveyed."--Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top customer reviews
The author's research is impeccable. He includes a fine social history of the nation and explains why art collecting had become an obsession in the United States just before and after the turn of the century. The often bizarre behavior of the characters involved is fascinating, and the byzantine path the painting takes left me reeling. I will never look at a painting in the same way I did before reading the book. I was sorry it had to end.
The primary focus of John Brewer's history of the controversy around the Hahn "La Belle" is the question of what exactly constitutes a valid attribution, the identification of one particular artist as the creator of a particular art work. Connoisseurs tend to fall into two major camps: those who believe in using "scientific" analysis versus those who rely on observation and emotional response. Neither camp accepts the other's methods, and the result is endless debate and rancorous controversy.
The story of the Hahn's La Belle Ferronnière is full of intriguing characters, many of them highly regarded and brilliant connoisseurs and many others shady if not downright criminal. Arguments over whether the painting was really a Leonardo escalated into full scale lawsuits and decades long vendettas.
While in the end the final resolution of the identity of the creator of the Hahn "La Belle" is still undecided, "The American Leonardo" is nevertheless a very intriguing and satisfying history which will leave its readers, particularly those who know little or nothing about artistic provenance, with a better understanding of the difficulty of making correct attributions and a healthy skepticism towards the self-proclaimed experts who try to make them.
When Duveen dismissed the picture as a fake and a fraud (without ever having seen it), the resourceful Hahns sued him for slander. The ensuing court case forms the heart of John Brewer's lengthy book, which I read about only recently in a New Yorker article about a disputed Leonardo drawing which is attracting attention today, under eerily similar circumstances, David Grann, speaks of Brewer's book as if it were some kind of New Yorker-like masterwork of nonfiction. It's not, but it has its good points, and I don't want to sell the book short, but it's boring,
Okay, the interesting-est parts all involve Brewer's continuous contextualizing of the art market circa 1920. We take it for granted that Old Masters were always the blue chip pictures on the market, but at the time of the Hahn case, we learn, such a state of affairs was a relatively recent development. Old Masters could be bought for a song in the 1840s, 1850s, 1860s. It was not until the rise of a new class, the "connoisseur," (literally, the guy who knows), that Vermeers and Raphaels began to attain really good prices. The rise of the connoisseur couldn't have happened without an explosion in the number of rich American businessmen who wanted to get the best for their money: without being able to determine a consensus on what is the best, they might as well have continued buying up countries instead of works of art. The situation arose that continues even today, although today painters and artists, once anointed and plugged into the cabal, can sell new works still wet from the fabricators, at the prices it once took a painting a few centuries of patina to reach. Somehow I wound up not feeling sorry even for the Hahns, the little Davids trying to bring down the big Goliath of connoisseurship. They seem as greedy as the rest of the bunch. Every page of this book is an excoriating example of a market out of control, and yet Brewer looks on as though this were all great good fun.
Most recent customer reviews
This book details the events surrounding a work of art that surfaced in...Read more