Mary Berenson

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Mary Berenson (Pennsylvania, 1864 – 1945), née Mary Smith, was an art historian, now thought to have had a large hand in some of the writings of her second husband, Bernard Berenson.[1]

Her father was Robert Pearsall Smith, her mother Hannah Whitall Smith. She studied at the Harvard Annex in 1884-1885.[2] Here Mary met the Irish barrister Benjamin Conn "Frank" Costelloe, who she married in 1885. This marriage was the occasion for the whole family, including her brother Logan Pearsall Smith and sister Alys Pearsall Smith to move to England in 1888.[3] Mary separated from Costelloe, with whom she had two children, after a few years together.[4] She took up in Italy with Bernard Berenson, whom she eventually married in 1900. Her US lecture tours were instrumental in developing an interest in Italian Renaissance art among wealthy American collectors during the first decade of the twentieth century. [5]

Subsequently she brought together a social circle at Villa I Tatti', the Berenson home, and developed its gardens.[6]


  1. ^ Mary Berenson entry in Dictionary of Art Historians
  2. ^ Tiffany L. Johnston (2012). "Mary Whitall Smith at the Harvard Annex". Berenson and Harvard. The President and Fellows of Harvard College. Retrieved June 4, 2014. 
  3. ^ The Strachey Papers at the Archives in London and the M25 Area
  4. ^ A World of Women by Pauline Maier, The New York Times, 12 December 1982
  5. ^ Johnston, Tiffany (2015). “Mary Berenson and the Cultivation of American Collectors,” in A Market for Merchant Princes: Collecting Italian Renaissance Paintings in America. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-271-06471-0. 
  6. ^ The garden of Villa I Tatti: some historical notes in The Harvard university Center for Italian Renaissance Studies


  • Barbara Strachey and Jayne Samuels (1983), Mary Berenson: a Self Portrait from her Letters & Diaries

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