From Connoisseurship to Technical Art History: The Evolution of the Interdisciplinary Study of Art
By Maryan W. Ainsworth
“Anyone interested in the early development of connoisseurship will find detailed historical accounts in the excellent volume Historical and Philosophical Issues in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage (Getty Publications, 1996). In this anthology, one can follow the issues and the chief players in this admittedly subjective field of study that, nonetheless, is the foundation of object-based art history. Yet, it is undeniable that connoisseurship has gotten a bad name over the years. This is partly due to the conflict of interest that can develop in relationships between curators and dealers (the names Bernard Berenson and Joseph Duveen readily come to mind), the undeniable connection of monetary value with attribution, and the inexact science of it all. Perhaps most perplexing is the seeming exclusivity of connoisseurship, fed by the notion that some have “an eye” (often touted as an inborn trait) and others do not. … READ FULL ARTICLE
Maryan W. Ainsworth is curator of European Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.