Berenson, Mary, 1864-1945

Variant names

Hide Profile

Bernard Berenson, art historian and critic, was born in Lithuania in 1865. His family moved to Boston, Mass. in 1875 where he was enrolled in the Boston Latin School. He then attended Boston University for one year, and graduated from Harvard College in 1887. Encouraged by Isabella Stewart Gardner and others, Berenson travelled to Europe to study art, although with the original intention of becoming a writer. Mary Berenson was born a Quaker in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1864, the daughter of well-known preachers Hannah Whitall and Robert Pearsall Smith. She attended Smith College from 1882-1884 and the Harvard Annex for one year, 1884-5. She left the US to marry Irish barrister and political hopeful B.F.C. "Frank" Costelloe in 1885, which also necessitated her conversion to Catholicism, against the advice of her family. Mary and Frank had two daughters, Rachel (Ray), born in 1887 and Karin, born in 1889. Both were diffìcult pregnancies. Mary's family followed her to England shortly afterwards and became deeply involved in social, literary and cultural circles. In 1890 Berenson was introduced to Mary through a mutual friend, Gertrude Hitz-Burton. Having already become unhappy in her marriage, Mary followed Berenson back to the continent to study art under his tutelage. She eventually left her husband and lived in Italy and travelled with Berenson. A year after Frank Costelloe's death in 1899 Mary and Berenson were married in Italy (Dec. 1900). In spite of numerous affairs and liaisons on both sides they remained married their entire lives. Having maintained separate residences until their marriage, in 1901 they moved into "I Tatti," a villa owned by John Temple-Leader. They purchased the property in 1908 from Temple-Leader's son, who had inherited it upon his father's death. They spent several years updating, renovating and adding to the villa, especially the library and gardens, work supervised by Cecil Pinsent and Geoffrey Scott. They continued to acquire adjacent properties. Berenson had gone to Europe after college with the intention of becoming a writer. There, he was drawn in by the aesthetic experience, and became more focused on looking at and writing about art. As his reputation as an "expert" was established from his scholarly publications, Berenson was often requested to provide his attributions on works of art for various art dealers, private collectors and museums. One of the most notable of these relationships was with Duveen Bros. Mary initially became involved in the women's movement in England and America, and continued in her political activities, making speeches and helping her first husband with his campaigns for office. After meeting Berenson, however, and based on her studies with him, the focus of her energies shifted, and she also became an art critic. She worked very closely with Berenson on his projects, as well as publishing substantially on her own.

Elisabetta "Nicky" Mariano was hired in 1919 as librarian/secretary. She was a close friend of both Mary and Bernard. Althought they did not marry after Mary's death in 1945, Nicky remained a close companion to Berenson until his death in 1959. She continued to live in a house on the property and served as an informal advisor to the early directors of the Harvard University Center until her death in 1968.

For more extensive biography, see Ernest Samuels's two volumes, Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Connoisseur (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1979) and Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Legend (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1987). Other biographies include Nicky Mariano, Forty Years with Berenson (New York: Knopf, 1966), Sylvia Sprigge, Berenson: a Biography (London: G, Allen & Unwin, 1960), as well as numerous published diaries and letters. For more information on Mary Berenson see Barbara Strachey and Jayne Samuels, eds., Mary Berenson: A Self-Portrait from her Letters & Diaries (London: V. Gollancz, 1983) and Robert A. Parker, The Transatlantic Smiths (New York: Random House, 1959).

From the guide to the Berenson, Bernard and Mary. Papers, 1880-2002, 1880-2002, (Biblioteca Berenson, Villa I Tatti - The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Rendel, Elinor, 1885-1942. Diary of Elinor Rendel, 1907-1909 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Berenson, Bernard and Mary. Papers, 1880-2002, 1880-2002 Biblioteca Berenson, Villa I Tatti - The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies
referencedIn Strachey Family Papers, 1656-1999 The Women' s Library
creatorOf Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892. [Postcard, 18]90 Dec. 9, Camden, New Jersey [to] Mary Whitall Costelloe, London, England / Walt Whitman. Michigan State University Libraries, Main Library
creatorOf Smith, Hannah Whitall, 1832-1911. Papers, 1817-1987. Indiana University
referencedIn Miriam Hapgood DeWitt Papers, 1812-1990, 1903-1990 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Whitall-Smith family papers. 1830-1959 (bulk 1887-1894). Biblioteca Berenson, Villa I Tatti - The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies
referencedIn Milholland, Inez, 1886-1916. Papers, 1906-1916 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Bryson Burroughs papers Archives of American Art
referencedIn Papini, Roberto, 1883-1957. Papers, 1906-1957. Biblioteca Berenson, Villa I Tatti - The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies
referencedIn Hapgood family papers, 1829-1977 (inclusive), 1900-1940 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Hendrik Christian Andersen Papers, 1844-1940, (bulk 1890-1920) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Berenson, Bernard, 1865-1959. Bernard and Mary Berenson, Papers (1880-2002, bulk 1880-1959) : a finding aid. Houghton Library
referencedIn Smith, Hannah Whitall, 1832-1911. Letters of Hannah Whitall Smith, 1899-1911. Haverford College Library
creatorOf Wharton, Edith, 1862-1937. Papers, 1836-1975. Indiana University
referencedIn Hartt, Frederick. Papers, 1937-1989. Biblioteca Berenson, Villa I Tatti - The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies
creatorOf Berenson, Bernard, 1865-1959. Letters : to Rene Gimpel, 1909-1931. Getty Research Institute
referencedIn Sachs, Paul J. (Paul Joseph), 1878-1965. Papers, 1903-2005. Harvard University Art Museum
creatorOf Berenson, Mary, 1864-1945. Letter : Florence, Italy, to Lucy Martin Donnelly, Bryn Mawr, Pa., 1936 April 8. Bryn Mawr College, Mariam Coffin Canaday Library
creatorOf Paula Gerard papers Archives of American Art
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Acton, Harold, 1904-1994 person
correspondedWith Andersen, Hendrik Christian, 1872-1940. person
associatedWith Barney, Natalie Clifford person
associatedWith Barr, Margaret Scolari, 1901-1987 person
associatedWith Berenson, Bernard, 1865-1959. person
associatedWith Berenson family family
associatedWith Berenson, Senda person
associatedWith Bliss, Robert Woods, 1875-1962 person
associatedWith Bradbury, Ray, 1920- person
associatedWith Brown, Gertrude Foster, b. 1867 person
associatedWith Burroughs, Bryson, 1869-1934. person
associatedWith Canfield, Cass, 1897-1986 person
associatedWith Clark, Kenneth, 1903-1983 person
associatedWith Constable, W. G. (William George), 1887-1976 person
associatedWith Coolidge, John, 1913-1995 person
associatedWith Coster, Charles Henry, 1897-1977 person
associatedWith Croce, Benedetto, 1866-1952 person
associatedWith Curtis, Ralph Wormeley, 1854-1922 person
associatedWith DeWitt, Miriam Hapgood, 1906-1990. person
associatedWith Donnelly, Lucy Martin, 1870-1948. person
associatedWith Dunham, Katherine person
associatedWith Duveen Brothers corporateBody
associatedWith Field, Michael person
associatedWith Forbes, Edward Waldo, 1873-1969 person
associatedWith Francis, Henry Sayles, 1902-1994 person
associatedWith Frankfurter, Felix, 1882-1965 person
associatedWith Frick, Helen Clay, 1888-1984 person
associatedWith Fry, Roger person
associatedWith Gardner, Isabella Stewart, 1840-1924 person
associatedWith Gellhorn, Martha, 1908-1998 person
associatedWith Gerard, Paula, 1907- person
associatedWith Getty, J. Paul (Jean Paul), 1892-1976 person
associatedWith Greene, Belle da Costa person
associatedWith Gronau, Georg person
associatedWith Gustav VI Adolf, King of Sweden, 1882-1973 person
associatedWith Guttuso, Renato, 1911-1987 person
associatedWith Hamilton, Hamish person
associatedWith Hammond, Mason, 1903-2002 person
associatedWith Hand, Learned, 1872-1961 person
associatedWith Hapgood family. family
associatedWith Hartt, Frederick. person
associatedWith Hemingway, Ernest, 1899-1961 person
associatedWith Hill, Derek person
associatedWith Hofer, Philip, 1898-1984 person
associatedWith Johnson, John Graver, 1841-1917 person
associatedWith Lehman, Robert person
associatedWith Levi, Doro, 1898-1991 person
associatedWith Lippmann, Walter, 1889-1974 person
associatedWith Mariano, Nicky person
associatedWith Meiss, Millard person
associatedWith Milholland, Inez, 1886-1916. person
associatedWith Milles, Carl, 1875-1955 person
associatedWith Mongan, Agnes person
associatedWith Origo, Iris, 1902-1988 person
associatedWith Papini, Roberto, 1883-1957. person
associatedWith Parsons, Harold person
associatedWith Pavle, Prince of Yugoslavia, 1893- person
associatedWith Perkins, F. Mason person
associatedWith Placci, Carlo person
associatedWith Porter, Arthur Kingsley, 1883-1933 person
associatedWith Rendel, Elinor, 1885-1942. person
associatedWith Russell, Bertrand, 1872-1970 person
associatedWith Sachs, Paul J. (Paul Joseph), 1878-1965. person
associatedWith Scott, Geoffrey, 1885-1929 person
associatedWith Seligmann, Jacques, 1858-1923 person
associatedWith Smith, Hannah Whitall, 1832-1911. person
associatedWith Stark, Freya person
associatedWith Toesca, Pietro, 1877-1962 person
associatedWith Trevelyan, R. C. (Robert Calverley), 1872-1951 person
associatedWith Trevor-Roper, H. R. (Hugh Redwald), 1914-2003 person
associatedWith Vertova, Luisa person
associatedWith Villa I Tatti (Florence, Italy) corporateBody
associatedWith Walter Pach, 1883-1958 person
associatedWith Wharton, Edith, 1862-1937. person
associatedWith Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892. person
associatedWith Winthrop, Grenville Lindall, 1864-1943 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
American literature
Art dealers
Art historians
Art, Italian
Art museum curators
Art, Renaissance
Painting, Renaissance
Sculpture, Renaissance


Birth 1864

Death 1945-03-23





Ark ID: w6bv7rp8

SNAC ID: 69910806