A Christmas Attribution
by Nandia Foteini Vlachou
A satire of the networks of art commerce, connoisseurship, and art criticism in the early 20th century – a fascinating analysis of the poem “A Christmas Attribution”, by Barbara Pezzini.
The worlds of connoisseurship, commerce and the interactions between them are recounted in a lively manner in the writings by Robert Ross (1869-1918), friend and literary executor of Oscar Wilde, successful writer on art, co-director of the Carfax Gallery with Arthur Clifton (1863–1932) and More Adey (1858-1945), and remembered by Roger Fry as a rare example of an honest dealer.
At the end of 1903 Ross published privately A Christmas Attribution, a satirical poem in fourteen quatrains based on the Riddle on the Letter H by Catherine Maria Fanshawe. This is a satire of the modalities occurring between dealers and critics at the turn of the Twentieth century. It opens with a direct mention of the Burlington Magazine, and has its editors (Dell and Holmes) and its principal founders (Berenson and Fry), among its main protagonists. Ross cunningly finds a way of weaving in a mention of practically…
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