BOOK REVIEW: Duveen Brothers And the Market for Decorative Arts, 1880–1940

Duveen Brothers And the Market for Decorative Arts, 1880–1940

Charlotte Vignon

UK£44.95 / US$59.95
Hardback ISBN 978-1-911282-34-1
D Giles Limited in association with The Frick Collection, New York, 2019

 

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The name of Duveen is well-known in the annals of the American trait of collecting European art treasures in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Their story has previously been related in various volumes written by others, some of whom were family members or involved with the company. Understandably paintings predominated in these previous works but wonderfully at last the decorative arts get their well-deserved centre stage spot.

 

French 18th century furniture, tapestries, Sèvres and Chinese porcelains and medieval and Renaissance works of art were among the items sold to the eager, wealthy American collectors. Relating the story from the firm’s point of view Charlotte Vignon looks at the pricing of the objects and the Duveen’s run-ins with the US tax authorities in which Duveen succeeded and was able to continue to enhance the lives and homes of collectors such as J P Morgan, John D Rockefeller Jnr, Marjorie Merriweather Post, Anna Thomson Dodge and Henry Clay Frick. Thanks to the firm’s records and archives held at the Getty Research Institute, one gets a good understanding of how Duveen functioned in New York, London and Paris and obtained such beautiful treasures at a time when the owners of English and European family collections were selling parts of their heritage for financial reasons. The importance of the house of Duveen was reflected in 1937 when they loaned tapestries to decorate an annexe at Westminster Abbey for the Coronation of King George VI.

 

It’s a remarkable story of connoisseurship and reveals to present day visitors to American museums and collections how these remarkable objects came to be there. Perfect!

 

 

 

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