Philippe Costamagna’s combination of autobiography, anecdote and single discovery told in his own words

The memoirs of the Pontormo expert and director of the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Ajaccio

Philippe Costamagna

Philippe Costamagna is the director of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Ajaccio, Corsica, and a specialist of Pontormo. His major discovery was the artist’s Christ on the Cross (around 1650), found hanging, unidentified, in the Musée des Beaux Art in Nice in 2005.

This book is part autobiography, part anecdotes from his career and part history of “Eyes”, the connoisseurs in the art world who, as he says, have the ability to identify artworks “at a glance”. Sadly, his self-confidence (“Whenever I am confronted with a fake, I know it immediately”) mars what otherwise could be an interesting study of the oft-undervalued importance of connoisseurship. But in Costamagna’s case, his “eye” is too often identified with his “I”.

  • Philippe Costamagna, translated by Frank Wynne, The Eye: an Insider's Memoir of Masterpieces, Money, and the Magnetism of Art, New Vessel Press, 256pp, $24.95 (hb)