We regret the spread in New York of one of the newly established mythical collections of ancient art. For a time, as far as I can remember, more than twenty years, a mythological Chilean collector, Alvaro Saieh, with his wife Ana Guzman, began to show signs of himself by buying important Italian paintings, and not only those from which at in the second half of the last century, after centuries of indifference, the broader market was defined, namely Caravaggeschi and the painters of the seventeenth century, but also of important “primitives”, increasingly rare, between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, who had been the protagonists of the large collections established at the beginning of the last century in Italy, Europe and America, after the taste established by the first great modern scholar of the art of antiquity, Bernard Berenson.
Alana was the abbreviation derived from the initials of the first names of the man and woman, cultured, curious, in love with Italy and much sought after by Italian merchants and antique dealers, active between England and America, in a free market that at. by the beginning of the last century he had nurtured the flow of Italian works favored by Berenson, Lionello Venturi and Roberto Longhi. It was a testament to the highest moment of universal artistic civilization: the painters of the Italian Renaissance. It seemed impossible to see a collection of such rare works reborn after the great collectors such as Mellon, Frick, Kress, Lehman, fed by the great merchant Joseph Duveen, had turned up in the great American museums, National Gallery of Washington, Metropolitan Museum in New York, Isabella Stewart-Gardner Museum in Boston. Instead, the two passionate collectors went with suggestions from one of the last connoisseurs of primitive artists, Miklos Boskovits, from a passion for the most conformist of the classics, Sassoferrato, a timeless Madonna painter, to a love for the greatest Italian masters . as Lorenzo Monaco, Fra Angelico, Paolo Uccello, Filippo Lippi, Giovanni Bellini, Vittore Carpaccio, Jacopo Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese, Jacopo Pontormo, Agnolo Bronzino and Orazio Gentileschi.
Their home was in the rooms of a building in Newark, Delaware, set up on the walls, one on top of the other, as in a picture gallery. But many arrived in Europe in the big exhibition at the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris in 2019. The choice was made by Carlo Falciani, who together with Carl Brandon Strehlke, Pierre Curie and Valentina Baffi curated the exhibition in the museum, as another couple, Edward André and Nélie Jacquemart, had formed mainly with the Italian masters of the Renaissance. At the same time, the Alana collection seemed surprising due to the greater difficulties that collection from another era entails in our time. Wise and skilled Italian merchants, such as Fabrizio Moretti and Marco Boena, were good hunters for the Alana couple.
According to Carole Blumenfeld, the two collectors are also via the Italian art dealer Fabrizio Moretti buyers of La Dérision du Christ, a ditycon of Cimabue awarded for 24 million euros on October 27, 2019 by the auction house Senlis. The painting is classified as a national treasure by the French Ministry of Culture, which bans its departure from French territory for thirty months and gives the Louvre Museum time to raise the necessary funds for its acquisition. The commitment and passion of the two collectors was further disturbed by a ridiculous study of paintings that were considered fake and in fact authentic, promoted by a troubled French judge who investigated the Italian merchant and the great painter Lino Frongia, and seized paintings from a Venus of Cranach of the Prince of Liechtenstein, which the two allegedly forged. The international scandal, without foundation, also affected the Alana collection. At the end of the exhibition at the Jacquemart-André Museum, the French authorities actually seized San Cosimo del Bronzino by order of Judge Aude Buresi. The table could, according to the indictment, be a forgery put into circulation by Giuliano Ruffini, against whom a European arrest warrant was issued in May 2019. Another arrest warrant was sent against Lino Frongia, who was immediately acquitted by the Italian authorities.
The painting entered the Alana collection in 2011 and was exhibited for the first time in 2010 during the Bronzino retrospective at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, organized by Carlo Falciani and Philippe Costamagna. Asked by investigators, Philippe Costamagna, a specialist at the Florentine school and curator of the Fesch Museum in Ajaccio, stated that the painting with its numerous remorse was an autographed masterpiece by Bronzino. Representatives of the Alana collection made it clear that the purchase in 2011 was from the gallery of a great connoisseur like Derek Johns in London. It is impossible for a forger to invent the hand position, which is a pure creation of Bronzino.
After this incident, something must have happened if the two collectors, who had suffered the separation of their works, and the grotesque seizure, thinking of never lending them again, found themselves compelled to sell them. All the more so if one thinks back to Alvaro’s disinterested statements, knowing of the pleasures and risks of such a sophisticated collection: “It is clear that anyone who collects Gothic and Renaissance art is going against the flow. I’m also aware that there is more profit in contemporary art, but I’m not here for the money … The current market only adds some value to the most important works. It is no longer as it used to be where even smaller productions found their place. As far as the primitive is concerned, everything is therefore about larger works that have very high prices. Personally, I sometimes go against the market, if I find an exceptional work, I buy it, whether it is a leading artist or not.
Prophetic words, if you look at the results of the auction at Christie’s, New York. The masterpieces of Orazio Borgianni by Jacopino del Conte have been collected. Santa Cecilia attributed to Artemisia Gentileschi was humiliated, determined because it was not hers, which stopped at 220 thousand dollars, which was estimated at 500. In general, the evaluations were confirmed, but without surprises, as if ancient art, compared to modern. , had unshakable assessments, in addition to the importance of the authors and the quality of the paintings. Thus, the evaluation of the spacious Miracle of San Bernardino di Sano di Pietro ($ 100,000) confirmed, Alvise Vivarini’s Christ’s blessing did not grow, closer to the minimum estimate ($ 378,000), and Beato Angelico ($ 4 million) defended himself and 740 thousand). The little Majesty, not in good condition, by Lippo di Benivieni (200 thousand) doubled the estimate. The Morazzo (but it was not) and the Scarsellino (a very static Sant’Elena, for the always virtuoso of Ferrara) were disappointing: only 60,000 one and the other. They mysteriously came out of Italy, if it is true that Scarsellino was in the Italian market, in Verona, like Camillo Ricci, in 1984. Even the beautiful Sodoma, who had already appeared on Pandolfini in Florence in 2007, is surprising to see it in America, sold for 226 thousand dollars. Andrea di Bartolo defends himself and even an ugly painting of excellent descent (Rothschild), referring to the circle of Leonardo da Vinci. He has El Greco of 3 million and 600 thousand, and Alessandro Turchi, bought by Dorotheum in 2016, of mysterious origin (327 thousand), is respected.
But among the most beautiful paintings in the collection is certainly the Madonna and Child by Orazio Gentileschi, which has reached 4 and a half million dollars. And it was still in 1977 in Italy, then to get into Barbara Jonshon’s large collection. The crucifixion of Ambrogio Lorenzetti, which I remember in an important Milanese collection, an extremely admirable work, stopped under a million dollars. Very good is the result of Antonio Vivarini’s San Pietro Martire (630 thousand), but even in this case the origin is uncertain, a strange international art investment fund from London. The beautiful Guido Reni, which I saw near the Feighen, an enchanted copper with the Martyrdom of Sant’Apollonia, stood at about 800 thousand.
Thus, an important part of the beautiful Alana collection evaporated. Thus ended a dream. While a single Andy Warhol painting sold for $ 190 million, again at Cristhie’s, perhaps ten times more than this block of 50 masterpieces from the Alana collection, sold for less than twenty million. What to say?