[Charles Fairfax Murray.] Autograph Letter Signed ('C. F. Murray') to 'Fisher' [barrister Richard C. Fisher?] regarding his purchase of the Bellini Crucifixion, now in the Louvre, with reference to Duveen. Rodolphe Kann, von Bode, Volpi, Bonacossi.
A significant letter, filling gaps in the provenance of Bellini's Crucifixion, now in the Louvre. All that has been known hitherto about the painting's provenance is that at the beginning of the twentieth century it was in the Paris collection of the banker Rodolphe Kann, and that before the Second World War it was owned by the Florentine dealer Alessandro Contini Bonacossi, from whose heirs it was acquired by the Louvre in 1970. The present item reveals that the painting was acquired from the recipient Fisher [probably the auctioneer George Fisher] by the London art dealer Agnew, by whom it was sold to Kann. Nor has Murray's ownership of the painting hitherto been noted, and it seems that Bonacossi acquired it (as he did several other works) at the sale of Murray's collection in 1923. 4pp., 12mo. Bifolium. In fair condition, on aged and creased paper. After explaining that he has sent the letter in expectation that Fisher has returned from a foreign trip, Murray continues: 'I have a little piece of news that will interest you. Two days ago I re-purchased (this time definitely for myself) your Bellini "Crucifixion". I have been very sorry ever since Agnew [London art dealer] sold it to that ignoble Jew (German) Kann [the banker Rodolphe Kann] that I was unable to purchase it then. | The subsequent history is curious. When the Kann coll[ection] passed into the hands of Duveen [in 1907] it remained unsold, partly no doubt owing to the subject & partly to its being unsigned. It requires happily for me an intelligent art lover to appreciate its beauty. Duveen presented it to Dr. Bode [Wilhelm von Bode] in recognition of his help in selling the greater part of the coll[ectio]n. | For some reason (monetary perhaps) he Bode did not present it to the Berlin Mus[eu]m. but placed it in the hands of his crony Volpi [Count Elia Volpi], here for sale. Volpi included it in an auction he had here some time back but not getting the sum hoped for bought it in. It has remained in his hands since.' Murray had 'long ceased to visit' Volpi, but after writing to him was 'well received. I promptly seized the occasion to re-possess myself of the long coveted treasure together with a very fine bust of a cardinal ascribed to Bernini. So both now decorate my picture gallery since yesterday.' He concludes by giving his plans for returning to London, and in the hope that 'Mrs Fisher is better'.