‘When you pay high for the priceless, you’re getting it cheap.’ – Joseph Duveen
Joseph Duveen was the world’s most famous art dealer. His clients were amongst the most prominent and infamous Americans of the 20th century and included Mellon, Frick, Hearst, and Morgan. If you weren’t a client, chances are you were a nobody. Famous for his charm, shrewd salesmanship, relentless pursuit of the perfect objet d’art, and his ability to command eye-watering prices – Duveen was as unique as one of his priceless Old Masters.
In this exceptional biography S. N. Behrman tells the story of Duveen’s rise to prestige, from delftware peddler to selling the greatest European paintings to the greatest American millionaires. Duveen was a skilled salesman, enticing his well-heeled and business-savvy clients with visions of cultivation through acquisition of high-culture. He even laid the foundations for the great American museums of art, including the National Gallery and the Frick Collection, by persuading his clients to bequeath their purchases to the nation.
Everyone wanted a Duveen, because a Duveen was so much more than a painting or a vase; it was a chance at immortality.
'Astonishing . . . A masterful, deeply enjoyable work.' – David Remnick, The New Yorker
'A witty and hypnotically readable biography.' – Clifton Fadiman
'Incredibly entertaining.' – Edmund Wilson