The American Leonardo: A Tale of Obsession, Art and Money

Hardcover | August 11, 2015

byJohn Brewer

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In 1919 a returning World War I veteran named Harry Hahn and his French bride attempted to sell what they thought was a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci in New York. Renowned art dealer Sir Joseph Duveen declared the picture-La Belle Ferronniere-a fake without ever seeing the canvas. The Hahnssued Duveen for slander, setting off a legal battle that would last for decades.In The American Leonardo, John Brewer traces the twisting path of the Hahn La Belle-a painting of famously uncertain origin - as he illuminates the workings of the twentieth-century art market, exploring such larger questions about the art world such as how attributions are made, how they affectboth the status and value of artworks, and how the entire system of art dealers, curators, and connoisseurs authenticates works of art. In the early twentieth century new methods of scientific analysis developed, which meant that for the first time, the critical eye of the connoisseur had to contendwith an emerging array of scientific and forensic tests that (however crude at their inception) promised a degree of objectivity and reliability unattainable before. Brewer shows how the tension between the two methods of attribution lay at the heart of the Hahn La Belle dispute, which continues to this day. The painting currently languishes in an Omaha storage vault awaiting the resolution of the most recent lawsuit. For artists and art-lovers, collectors and curators--and for anyone who's ever stood in front of a painting and wondered about its story--The American Leonardo offers a discerning and entertaining view into the art world.

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From the Publisher

In 1919 a returning World War I veteran named Harry Hahn and his French bride attempted to sell what they thought was a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci in New York. Renowned art dealer Sir Joseph Duveen declared the picture-La Belle Ferronniere-a fake without ever seeing the canvas. The Hahnssued Duveen for slander, setting off a legal b...

John Brewer is Eli and Eyde Broad Professor in Humanities and Social Sciences at California Institute of Technology and the author of many books, including Pleasures of the Imagination.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:336 pages, 6.1 × 9.29 × 1.1 inPublished:August 11, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195396901

ISBN - 13:9780195396904

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIllustrationsIntroduction1. The American Scene2. The Culture of Connoisseurship3. Locating Leonardo4. Dealers and Clients5. The Trials of La Belle Ferronniere6. The Battle of the Experts7. The View from Kansas8. The Rape of La Belle9. True or False in Art10. An Investment OpportunityAfterwordBibliographyIndex