Like most gossip, Colin Simpson’s Artful Partners is at first blush fascinating. Like most gossip, however, it does not stand scrutiny well. It presents its information in a manner which precludes verification of its accuracy. In the final analysis, its sole meaningful accomplishment may be to earn momentary talk-show notoriety for Mr. Simpson.

One would have thought the dead Berensonian horse had been beaten beyond resurrection. And indeed so it might have been, had not circumstances given Mr. Simpson, a journalist with a record of remasticating well-chewed material (the Lusitania sinking; Lady Hamilton; Lawrence of Arabia; and the like), a crack at the files of Duveen Brothers (on embargoed deposit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) in the course of ghosting the late Edward Fowles’s Memories of Duveen Brothers (Times Books, 1976). In the course of several visits to the...


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