For millennia, kings and clerics alike have understood that little inspires awe and confers power better than a battalion of marble statues, an epic tapestry, or an exquisitely rendered portrait. Any story of art collection, however, is ineluctably a story of economics. Amass a fortune and art is often the first thing you’ll buy. Squander it and those Titians are the first things on the auction block. Yet for as long as the wealthy have adorned their homes with Grecian urns, so too have the hoi polloi managed to squirrel away artworks of their own.
December 30, 2010