Thursday, March 23, 2006

Reasonably Rembrandtesque...

In the last years of the 19th century, and the first years of the 20th, a man named Charles T. Yerkes was busy building a streetcar empire in Chicago. In this endeavor he was fabulously successful and he became immensely rich, and so he began to indulge his taste in art. Unfortunately he was not as knowledgeable about art as he was about streetcars. He would learn as time went on, and become an important and pioneering collector of truly fine Oriental rugs, but in the meantime he waded into paintings with somewhat predictable results-

Wesley Towner, in “The Elegant Auctioneers” relates-

In Brussels, Amsterdam, Paris, London, The Hague, Yerkes bought no end of pictures. He got a Clouet that had belonged to Horace Walpole- which of the three Clouets had painted it he did not inquire. What did it matter? It had hung, they said, in Strawberry Hill before that dream of glory ended in the auctions. He bought four Brueghels before he learned that there were seven Flemish painters by the name of Brueghel who had painted with irreconcilable degrees of skill. The Countess de Bearn sold him a David, which turned out to be by the Flemish primitive Gerard David, not by the great French classicist that everyone admired. (That was, perhaps, an error on the credit side). But thanks to the more respectable European dealers, Yerkes brought back to Chicago some of the best Dutch paintings that had come to America: four by Frans Hals, one of them a masterpiece; two Jan Steens; [and] four Rembrandts, all of them reasonably Rembrandtesque”.

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