Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: BER -12

William Mostyn-Owen papers concerning I Tatti


The collection includes the correspondence of Bernard Berenson and others in the circle of Berenson's friends and close associates to William Mostyn-Owen during his stay at I Tatti and after. It also includes some papers regarding I Tatti and Berenson.


  • 1952-1985

Language of Materials




Condition Governing Use

Copying: Papers may be copied in accordance with the Biblioteca Berenson's usual procedures. Copyright: The Biblioteca Berenson does not hold copyright on all the materials in this collection. Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be directed to the archivist. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the archivist are responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations that hold copyright.


1.0 linear feet

The bulk of the collection consists of Willy Mostyn-Owen's correspondence with Bernard Berenson, Nicky Mariano and the people he met at I Tatti during his stay in the Villa and in the nearby Villino during the 1950s, as an assistant to the aged art historian, then in his late eighties. The correspondence dates from 1950 on. The other part of the collection regards I Tatti and Berenson, and includes drafts for the bibliography of Bernard Berenson that WMO edited and published in 1955, a file regarding Contini Bonacossi, and a letter sent by WMO to his mother.


William Mostyn-Owen, art historian, was born, 10 May 1929, into a military family, the youngest of three brothers and a sister. His brothers died during the Second World War, and he was still a teenager when his father died, leaving him to inherit the family seat at Woodhouse, in Shropshire, for which he retained a great affection all his life, and Aberuchill Castle in Perthshire, which he eventually sold. Educated at Eton and Magdalene College, Cambridge, he traveled widely in postwar Italy and France, visiting many private collections as well as the famous museums and galleries.

During the 1950s he developed a deep love of the Italian Renaissance through six years of close contact with Bernard Berenson at Villa I Tatti. After the mother of a school friend introduced him to Berenson, "Willy" was enrolled in the Berensonian circle of scholars and acquantainces, among them Harold Acton, Kenneth Clark, Rosamond Lehmann and Hugh Trevor-Roper. He was particularly devoted to Berenson's secretary, Nicky Mariano. After two years spent compiling a bibliography of Berenson's immense array of critical writings, he edited a new English edition of his employer's path-breaking study of Lorenzo Lotto, and (with Luisa Vertova) revised Berenson's publications on Venetian and Florentine painters. After short spells at the Fogg Museum in Harvard and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, he was hired by Christie's, where he was made a director in 1968 and chairman of Christie's Education from 1979 to 1988. His enduring love of travel served him well when he founded Christie's Tours.

He contributed to the Oxford Companion to Western Art and the Macmillan Dictionary of Art and wrote articles for the Burlington Magazine, the Times Literary Supplement and various newspapers. His reminiscences of Berenson and Clark, delivered at an I Tatti seminar on the 50th anniversary of Berenson's death in 2009, are due to be published.

He was a member of the council of Keele University, of the Society of Dilettanti, and a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

He died 2 May 2011.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Jane Martineau and Owen Mostyn-Owen, 2012.

Processing Information

Processed by Ilaria Della Monica, 2012.

William Mostyn-Owen papers concerning I Tatti, 1952-1985: A Finding Aid
Biblioteca Berenson
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Biblioteca Berenson, I Tatti - The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies Repository

Via di Vincigliata 26
Florence 50135 Italy
+39 055 603 251
+39 055 603 383 (Fax)