Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/jhc/article-abstract/30/3/535/4799077 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 20 November 2018 BOOK REVIEWS painters, critics, dealers and that peculiar expertise many now go to see it who would otherwise have never which Benson saw in Murray, but to which neither heard anything about it’. could put a name. The ‘historical series of examples’ Murray’s letters give us a flavour of the difficulties of Sienese painting which Murray failed to persuade of extracting such works from the aristocrats, priests Burton to acquire makes Murray sound like the advo- and rival agents who guarded them. ‘I am fuming & cate of ‘art historical’ collecting. Yet the venom Murray fretting with impatience at the slowness of people,’ directs at the British Museum’s Keeper of Prints and Murray writes from Siena in December 1877. For four Drawings, Sidney Colvin gives pause. In 1894 Colvin years Murray had been circling ‘the best coll[ectio]n had sought to persuade one Gallery trustee that the of ancient pictures here the contents of which are age of the painter-cum-museum director had already entirely unknown,’ courting a priest with a connection passed: Burton had been qualified to serve as director to the reclusive family in question, only for the next ‘not because he paints in water-colours with his left man in the chain to come to ‘a tragic end shortly after - hand, but because he gave a great part of his life in being assassinated’. Acquiring stock in Italy was a long Germany and Italy to acquiring the true expert-train- game, but also cloak-and-dagger. Murray fences (meta- ing.’ Yet Murray put himself forward for the director- phorically) with a rival agent, Stefano Bardini, resentful ship precisely to ensure that the post went to Edward at having been ‘supplanted’ by the former ‘“con poca Poynter, another painter. Much of Murray’s expertise delicatezza”’. A failed poacher, Bardini turns game- came from dealing, but this activity could be perceived keeper, tipping off Venice customs to the imminent as a disqualification: as one anguished letter to Bode export of Ghirlandaio’s Procession to Calvary (National demonstrates, Murray had to curtail his dealing tem- Gallery, gn 1143). Murray ensures that ‘the “detec- porarily while his application was considered. tives” cannot come upon it’ by shipping the painting The sheer number of important works of art (pre- via a third party, mislabelled as ‘an old German pic- dominantly Italian panel paintings, but extending to ture’. Compared to these local rivalries the more famil- maiolica and Tanagra figurines) handled by Murray iar, international rivalry between London and Berlin in these years lend this volume significance as a tool for acquisitions is almost invisible: though Murray is for provenance research. It is the deeper currents of in the midst of this rivalry, only glimpses of it appear in profit, patriotism and patronage flowing beneath the these pages, largely in what is not written. ripples of this great rip-tide sucking treasures out of This volume is printed on cheap, flimsy paper. Italy, however, that constitute its true importance. Its contribution to our understanding of the High Murray notes the effect of improvements in the tech- Victorian European art market is, mercifully, a good nology of art appreciation: while higher-resolution deal more substantial. photographs can make minor damage to panels look worse, lowering values, images of a previously unpho- Jonathan Conlin tographed fresco fragment can have the opposite firstname.lastname@example.org effect, attracting rival bidders: ‘it is the photograph doi:10.1093/jhc/fhy008 which has partly caused this,’ he writes to Burton, ‘as Advance Access publication 11 April 2018 Erratum Barton’s coins: eighteenth-century numismatics in New College, Oxford William Poole A number of typographical errors were introduced in the proofing process of this article which have since been corrected. The publisher would like to apologise for these errors.
Journal of the History of Collections – Oxford University Press
Published: Nov 14, 2018
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