Katherine Dunham and Bernard Berenson

It had been a kind of liberation, of both mind and desire, that Berenson had discovered in reading the works of Walter Pater and in beginning to study the paintings of the Italian Renaissance, and this still rang through to his visitors seventy years later. Lewis Mumford wrote to Berenson of a visit in 1957, “To behold your own spirit burning so purely and brightly still, gave a new meaning to Pater’s old figure: ‘a hard gem-like flame.’”


With Katherine Dunham, the African American anthropologist, choreographer,and dancer, Berenson had a sort of platonic love affair when he was just shy of ninety. He wrote that Dunham “is herself a work of art, a fanciful arabesque in all her movements and a joy to the eye in colour.” She from the first felt in him the “vitality, charm, and wisdom that are found only in truly great people” and would eventually write to him, “I left a part of myself that is deep and inner with you.”

Rachel,Cohen. Bernard Berenson (Jewish Lives)  Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

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