Duveen, Joseph, Lord

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DUVEEN, JOSEPH, LORD (1869–1939), English art dealer. His grandfather was a Dutch Jewish blacksmith, and his father a dealer first in lard, then in Delft pottery, furniture, and objets d'art. Duveen was born in Hull, and later moved to London. He began to deal in paintings in 1901 and by 1906 was buying famous collections. In the same year he engaged Bernard *Berenson as his authenticator of Italian art. Duveen's chief clients were a relatively small number of American millionaires. He encouraged in his clients a taste for the luxurious surroundings in which great works of art could be shown, sometimes even going so far as to build and furnish their houses. At the same time he "educated" them in an appreciation of the old masters and fostered in them a desire to achieve lasting fame through the formation of important collections. He then met their requirements by supplying the most magnificent examples available of the Italian, Dutch, French, and English schools at the highest prices. His specialty was the English masters of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The collections he thus brought into existence were often donated to the public on their owners' death. Lord Duveen received many honors. Most controversially, he was appointed a Trustee of London's National Gallery, National Portrait Galley, and the Wallace Collection. The apparent conflict of interest of an art dealer having a potential role in deciding which works of art England's leading art museums might purchase was widely debated, and led to Duveen's dismissal from these posts shortly before his death. Duveen received a knighthood in 1919, a baronetcy in 1929, and was awarded a peerage in 1933 – the first ever awarded to an art dealer – in large part for paying for the building of the famous gallery at the British Museum which houses the Elgin Marbles.


S.N. Behrman, Duveen (Eng., 1952); J.H. Duveen, The Rise of the House of Duveen (1957).