Ohio History Journal

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A FEW MONTHS ago the Metropolitan

Museum of Art shocked the public, and

certainly surprised the museum world, by

paying the remarkable sum of $2,300,000

for Rembrandt's painting of "Aristotle

Contemplating the Bust of Homer." It

was an historic occasion and one filled

with more than its share of drama. So-

cialites, art dealers, critics, collectors, and

museum people gathered for the sale in

the austerely furnished main auction

room at Parke - Bernet Galleries, New

York, while less fortunate ticket holders

were dispersed to nearby quarters and

forced to participate via closed-circuit

television. Not a few prominent and no-

ticeably irate public figures were turned

away. Excitement ran high, for although

other fine paintings were to be sold, the

Rembrandt commanded the attention--

and aroused the speculation--of every

person present.

Parke-Bernet auctions are especially

well managed and move very quickly.

Tension mounted steadily as the monoto-

nous voice of the auctioneer droned the

opening bid on the "Aristotle" -- one

million dollars. Raised hands or subtle

nods and other obscure bidding devices

rapidly raised the price to the successful

pinnacle, the highest price ever paid for

a painting.

In the weeks that followed, conscienti-

ous reporters solicited opinions on this

amazing purchase from all classes of peo-

ple from cab drivers to bank presidents,

and many thousands who had never set

foot in a museum trekked to the Metro-

politan to contemplate "Aristotle." For

many it was the greatest painting they

had ever seen; it evoked an emotional

and aesthetic response of unequaled mag-

nitude. But to almost everyone who saw

it or read about it, it posed two nagging

questions--why did it cost so much, and

why did the museum buy it?