In November 1888, writing to the German museum official, Wilhelm Bode (1845-1929), the dealer Stefano Bardini (1836-1922) stated that he was certain that “eight marbles and 12 terracottas” in South Kensington (V&A) were fake, and that without doubt, upon further study, there is “much to be found rotten.” He mused to Bode of other doubts, that he would not discuss until he had inspected them himself. Four days later, Bode responded that, for the most part, he agreed with Bardini. However, Bode disagreed with Bardini that two of the Madonnas — a marble attributed to Donatello and a relief in gilded terracotta — were fakes. Bode concluded by telling Bardini that he would be very happy if Bardini could induce South Kensington to sell them as fakes, as he would happily buy them.
Drawing upon the one hundred years’ worth of archival material in the Archivio Storico Eredità Bardini (ASEB) and the Archivio Fotografico Eredità Bardini (AFEB), in Florence under the jurisdiction of the Polo Museale Toscano, identified are Bardini’s strategies for branding, marketing and transacting hundreds of Italian Renaissance objects that were made in the nineteenth century. The end result is the establishment of a rubric, or a formula per se, along which lines his fakes can be identified and located with predictability. Also discussed are issues of contamination of the canon and scholarly literature along with the associated complicity that necessarily insures the continued opacity of the situation today.
Lynn Catterson (Columbia Univ., Ph.D., 2002), part-time lecturer at Columbia University, began with an interest in Italian Renaissance sculpture with a focus on the marketplace and how 15th century sculptors satisfied consumer demand for antiquities. Lately, she is working on the art market in 19th century Florence from the point of view of production and social network via its preeminent dealer, Stefano Bardini, drawing upon material in the state archive of the Bardini family and business, examining the structure and operational strategies of his vast international business. Her most recent publications include: “Duped or Duplicitous? Bode, Bardini and the many Madonnas of South Kensington,” Journal of the History of Collections, 2021; “Art Market, Social Network and Contamination: Bardini, Bode and the Madonna Pazzi Puzzle,” in L. Catterson, ed, Florence, Berlin and Beyond: Social Network and the Late Nineteenth-century Art Market, Brill, 2021.
Previous Lecture now available on YouTube:
Mela Dávila Freire, M.A., Hamburg/Barcelona,
Dr. Alexia Pooth, Potsdam/Berlin:
documenta Ost/West: Kunstpolitik und Kunstmarkt