The Emma B. Andrews Diary Project

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Description

An art historian and connoisseur who was Giovani Morelli's chief disciple. He attributed the 'Donna Laura Minghetti Leonardo' to Leonardo Da Vinci, believing that Morelli had unofficially done so prior to his death. Decades later, he declared in one of his books that he no longer believed the painting was the work of Leonardo Da Vinci.

Creator

Claire Summa

Source

"Bernard Berenson." The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, n.d. Web. Date Accessed: April 2016.

Biographical Text

Berenson majored in Literature and learned several languages at Harvard University. This shaped his career as an art historian, critic, and collector in Italy. He first published work in art history in 1893. He published a manifesto of Morelli's Method in 1895, and published an essay detailing his own method in the same year.

Berenson introduced the 'Donna Laura Minghetti Leonardo' to artistic literature in 1896, praising it through implying it were comparable to the 'Mona Lisa.' When Davis and Andrews took the painting to London, its attribution began to be questioned. Berenson supported the new attribution to a Tuscan painter, Angiolo Tricca, who had died in 1884. Berenson did a complete 180 degree turn on the attribution of this painting, first claiming that is was Da Vinci's greatest work next to the universally revered 'Mona Lisa,' then fully backing the claim that the painting was a forgery. This lost Berenson quite a bit of credibility in art connoisseurship, nearly costing him his career. He would later officially declare in one of his books that after much research and deliberation, he no longer believed the work to be a 'Leonardo.'

However, there may be a reasonable explanation for this. According to Dietrich Seybold, Ph.D., an (art) history researcher, Berenson may have been just following what he thought the leading art authorities believed about the work. Seybold asserts that Morelli calling the painting a 'Leonardo' was to play a trick on his followers; Donna Laura Minghetti knew about it, and Jean Paul Richter was taken in by it at first. Richter mentioned the work was attributed to Leonardo eleven years before Berenson did, thus Berenson followed what Richter had claimed what Morelli believed: that the painting was an authentic Leonardo Da Vinci.

Berenson continued to publish and collect art throughout his life, and died in Villa I Tatti, Florence, Italy, in 1959,

Birth Date

1865

Birthplace

Butrimonys, Vilna, Lithuania

Death Date

1959

Occupation

Historian and connoisseur of Italian Renaissance art

Bibliography

Seybold, Dietrich. "The Mysterious 'Donna Laura Minghetti Leonardo': Re-opening the Case." Microstory of Art, 17 Feb. 2016. Web. Date Accessed: March 2016.

Abbreviated Biography

An art historian and connoisseur who was Giovani Morelli's chief disciple. He attributed the 'Donna Laura Minghetti Leonardo' to Leonardo Da Vinci, believing that Morelli had unofficially done so prior to his death.

Citation

Citation

Claire Summa, “Berenson, Bernard.,” The Emma B. Andrews Diary Project, accessed June 20, 2021, https://www.emmabandrews.org/project/items/show/120.

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