Painting: Tapping the Mother Lode

"There is something in the very name of Florence that suggests refinement and pleasurable emotions," wrote Boston-born James Jackson Jarves, America's first real collector of Italian Renaissance art, in 1852. At the time, few Americans agreed with him. When his collection of 143 Pre-Raphaelite paintings was shown in New York in 1860, critics panned them decisively as "weak and fettered," "the crude expression of Genius grappling with superstition." Snorted one Victorian gallerygoer, viewing a Tuscan religious panel with a gold-leaf background: "More of these d—d ridiculous Chinese paintings!"

A century has...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!