It was the largest art theft in history, a treasure trove of Vermeers and Renoirs, Picassos, Chagalls, Cézannes and medieval church pieces heisted by the Nazis, much of it from Jews.
But we’re the People of the Book, not the People of Paintings and Sculpture. What were German, Austrian, Polish and French Jews doing with so many Old Masters, medieval Christian reliquaries and panels depicting the life of Saint Clare of Assisi in the first place?
For Charles Dellheim, the answer is simple: Collecting and trading in fine art was a bid by the European Jewish bourgeoisie for acceptance and social status.
Upon the release of his latest book, Belonging and Betrayal, Dr. Dellheim will introduce us to an extraordinary cast of Jewish characters who used fine art as a gateway into European and American society; Dutch brothers who redecorated Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace before furnishing J.P. Morgan’s mansion; Arabella Huntington, who became the force behind the art collection at California’s Huntington Library; and Bernard Berenson, the first Jew to be lionized by the Boston Brahmins.
Professor of History at Boston University, Charles Dellheim is the author of two prior works of European history.