The Emma B. Andrews Diary Project

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Description

The great grandnephew of Mary Buttles, who passed in 1956. Allen smuggled the 'Donna Laura Minghetti Leonardo' out of Italy, as the executer of Buttles' estate. When Bernard Berenson declared in one of his books that the painting was not actually a Leonardo Da Vinci, Allen had the painting x-rayed, which revealed that the painting is a product of the "school of Leonardo,' started by him but finished by a student.

Creator

Claire Summa

Biographical Text

The great-great grandnephew of Emma B. Andrews, he was the great-great grandson of her oldest sister, Eveline Buttles. His parents divorced before he was two, and both were reluctant to take him with them. Emma's nieces, Jeanette "Nettie" Buttles and Mary (Mamie) Buttles, took him with them to Italy; they moved to Florence in 1896 for the purpose of studying and painting. Allen had a gift for languages, and enlisted in WWII in the Navy when he was 17. He served as the captain's interpreter when they were in port. On D-Day, Allen piloted an LST. When Mary passed in 1956, Allen smuggled the 'Donna Laura Minghetti Leonardo' out of Italy, as the executer of her estate. The painting was allegedly too large to ship to the US, and was hidden behind the backseat of the vehicle Allen drove from Italy to Switzerland.

When Bernard Berenson declared in one of his books that the painting was not actually a Leonardo Da Vinci, Allen had the painting x-rayed at the University of Zurich and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This revealed that there was no sketch under the painting, which suggested that it was started by Leonardo but finished by a student. Hence, the painting is now deemed to be a product of the "school of Leonardo.'

While born in Ohio, his close relationship with Nettie and especially Mary Buttles reveals he spent quite a lot of time in Florence, where she lived. Allen got married in Florence in May of 1948, to Eleanor Louise Newton. They later divorced in June of 1981 in Leon Florida, where he died. Allen is buried with Mary, her sister Nettie, and their mother, Mary Ridgeway, in the Allori Cemetery in Florence.

Birth Date

November 10, 1924

Birthplace

Cuyahoga, Ohio

Death Date

November 27, 1989

Occupation

Unknown

Citation

Citation

Claire Summa, “John Whaling Allen,” The Emma B. Andrews Diary Project, accessed June 20, 2021, https://www.emmabandrews.org/project/items/show/122.

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