Page 17 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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FREEHOF / ON THE COLLECTING OF JEWISH BOOKS
7
widespread and varied and it must be one o f the elementary
impulses in human nature. What is its motivation?
D U V E E N A N D M E L L O N
Le t us approach it obliquely: T h e man who made the most
money out o f this human impulse to collect things was, I suppose,
L o rd Joseph Duveen. H e had sold art at vast prices to great
collectors. But his ch ie f quarry still eluded him: the Secretary o f
the Treasury, An d rew Mellon, a tough, Scotch-Irish Presby­
terian, a man hard to budge. Duveen, find ing out in what hotel
And rew Mellon stayed whenever he came to Paris, rented a large
apartment two or three floors below Mr. M e llon ’s and filled it with
superb art. H e then contrived to meet old Andrew in the elevator
and lured him into his apartment. T h e conversation must have
been marvelous to hear between that clever Jew and cold, cau­
tious Andrew Mellon. A t all events, it ended up with An dy Mellon
pay ing a m illion and a quarter fo r the famous H e rm itage
“ Madonna.”
N ow what m ight concern us is: What arguments did Joseph
Duveen use to this tough-minded banker? (By the way, W ood row
Wilson once visited Pittsburgh and, o f course, Andrew Mellon, an
old-time Republican, took him around. Wilson wanted to say
something polite. H e said, “ You r air in Pittsburgh is not as smoky
as I was told it is,” and Andy said, “ Mr. President, there
is
less
smoke than usual. H a l f the mills are closed. Th is is a Democratic
administration.” )
What argument did Duveen use with Mellon? H e said, among
other things: “ Now , Mr. Mellon, there are many peop le who can
appreciate a painting like this. T h e re are only a few who can
a f fo rd to own it. You are one o f the few peop le in the world who is
suited to have it; you have the money and the intelligence and the
art appreciation.” So the ch ie f argument in persuading Mr. M e l­
lon was that he would be one o f a very select group and also that
he would have
exclusive
possession. H e had something that was his
alone. An d this is a very important element in collecting. T h e r e is
something that no one else has and
you
have it. Even the most
technical-minded librarian, careful to use the dry diction o f the
bibliographical magazines is not above boasting: “Our library has
something that no one else has.”