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Bernard Berenson was born into a religious Jewish family from Lithuania and didn't covert to Christianity unti he was an adult. Presumably this was to avoid his parents' dismay. However you are correct about his first conversion choice being Protestant and the second Catholic.

My sense is that the choice was made less on artistic grounds and more on the need to escape from a rather narrow Northern European background that would restrict him socially and professionally.


You are right of course- should have mentioned it. Just added it as it's important to acknowledge all dimensions of his religious thought.

The reasons behind Berenson's conversion may never be known, but it was a logical career move if he wanted to improve his standing amongst the Italians. I'm not so much concerned about Berenson himself in this little series of posts, but the psychology of conversion and its relationship to cnnoisseurship, assuming there is one....

Francis DeStefano


Thanks for this post. I was not aware that Berenson converted to Catholicism. There could have been many reasons for the conversion but just calling yourself a Catholic will not make you see Art through Catholic eyes. I suspect that it might have been the other way around; that years of viewing Catholic art might hake influenced his conversion.

In any event, his conversion would not have made him popular among Catholic intellectuals of the time who were largely anti-clerical and anti-Catholic.

I look forward to your follow up post.


Francis DeStefano


Excuse the above typo. I meant to say that Italian intellectuals of the time were anti-clerical and anti-Catholic.


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