Philip Mould

The Real Deal?

The American Leonardo: A 20th-Century Tale of Obsession, Art and Money


Constable & Robinson 400pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

This is the true story of a picture, reputedly by Leonardo da Vinci, that first surfaced on the art market’s commercial radar in 1920 when it was offered by a small-time art dealer to Kansas City’s Art Institute. Like all good stories it has its champions and pariahs, and barely had the painting bobbed over the parapet when a petulant and territorial Lord Duveen, the most powerful art dealer of all time, pronounced it a fake in comparison to what he declared to be the original in the Louvre. The libel case that followed resulted in Duveen handing over $60,000 in damages.

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