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  • Writer's picturePhilip Ammerman


Christie's is auctioning the Rosenberg collection later this month. This is one of the largest single collections of illuminated manuscripts and printed books from the Middle Ages. The Christie's website has a most of the collection up for viewing, and the manuscripts are simply spectacular. In a perfect world, these would be purchased by someone and placed in a world-class museum.

The Book of Hours. Master Jean de Mauleon. 1520s.

Paul and later Alexandre Rosenberg's life stories capture the heights and abyss of the 20th Century in Europe. His art gallery at the 21 Rue la Boetie in Paris 8th was a meeting place for many of the modernists, including Picasso and Matisse.

With the coming of World War II, the family emigrated to New York, while many of their art works that remained in Paris were looted by the Nazis.

The Christie's article mentions the incredible coincidence of Alexandre Rosenberg, then serving with the Free French army, intercepting a Nazi train of his father's looted art, including 60 Picassos. This was the basis of a film with Burt Lancaster.

The Christie's article does not mention the likely inspiration this family had for yet another mention in art. I'm pretty sure Alexandre and Paul Rosenberg were the inspiration for Daniel Silva's Julian Isherwood character and backstory in his Gabriel Allon series of novels.

Looking back at the 20th century, it is a marvel we survived. From the brutality of trench warfare and the start of chemical warfare to genocides and mass extermination to Naziism and Stalinism, to say nothing of famines, Pol Pot, the nuclear arms race, and so much more.

In the ultimate coincidence, I lived at 25 Rue la Boetie from 2000 - 2003, just 2 buildings away from the former Rosenberg Gallery at 21 Rue la Boetie. If I remember correctly, the space then was occupied by a Persian carpet salesman. Today it is a tea room.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

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