The American Leonardo: A 20th Century Tale of Obsession, Art and Money
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The American Leonardo: A 20th Century Tale of Obsession, Art and Money

3.17 of 5 stars 3.17  ·  rating details  ·  36 ratings  ·  7 reviews
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 Hahns sued Duveen for slander, setting off a legal battle that would last for decades.
Hardcover, 388 pages
Published 2009 by Constable
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Feb 10, 2014 Terri rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: art
Harry and Adrée Hahn were given as a wedding present in 1919, a painting purported to be by the hand of Leonardo da Vinci. There was in the art world a certain snobbery that defied a couple from Kansas, of all places, to be in possession of an original by da Vinci, indeed!

Between 1900-1914 300 articles on American collecting of European Old Masters America were written; America was obsessed with the value, the purchase price of art work. "The issue of 'How do we know? How can we distinguish orig...more
Some of my recent favorite reads have been non-fiction books that bring a topic I may or may not have been interested in beforehand to life. The Immortality of Henrietta Lacks and Devil in the White City come to mind as great examples of utterly engrossing non-fiction reads. I hoped this book would be of a similar vein- it seemed to have all of the elements: scandal involving a Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece, a slew of questionable art world characters, International museums and art galleries mix...more
sort of a dull treatment, but 3 stars because in the end, there is still no resolution. Le Belle is still in a storage vault, unsold. the remnants of the family who brought her to usa are still tortured by intrigue, lawyers, and debt. the "art" world is still run by art goons. and we still don't know if this hahn belle is a true Leonardo, or if the Louvre belle is a true Leonardo, or if they are both fakes. what a bizarre international story of high art and low motives.
An interesting read though some parts dragged rather badly.Too many people's names to retain them all but what is amazing is that no-one seems to know still who painted it and what its provenance really is. The attitude of Duveen and his cohorts raises some interesting questions - how many fakes are hanging in our museums? Does it matter? Who can one trust to make an attribution? And has much changed since 1929?
It was interesting to learn that emotion not science still determines fakes from forgery. I doubt if the American Leonardo is really a Leonardo but it is los and a total wastet to the world as long as those who own it fight over it and keep it hidden from public view.
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
An interesting story, though if this were a novel I'd say that the narrative structure and pacing could use some work. Had some interesting thoughts about art and the nature of people who produce it, as a side note, around page 225 IIRC.
More about a court case involving a supposed-Leonardo and the development of art assessment than the history of the actual art itself. interesting, but not exactly what I had in mind.
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