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Dwelshauvers, Jean Jacques, Mesnil, Jacques, pseudonym

Date born: 1872

Place born: Brussels, Belgium

Date died: 1940

Place died: Montmaur-en-Diois, Préfecture de la Drôme, France

Anarchist and scholar of Florentine Renaissance art. Dwelshauvers studied classics and medicine at the university in Brussels. He continued medical study in Bologna. He published important anarchist pamphlets, Le movement anarchiste in 1895 and in 1901 Le mariage libre. As an anarchist, he hated militarism and the political authority of the church. In 1897 he returned to Belgium where he met anarchist and geographer Elisée Reclus. He returned to Florence to receive his medical degree, but never practiced. Instead he remained in Florence to pursue historical studies in self-imposed isolation, away from the urban blight of the poorer classes with whom he identified. He met a colleague of Reclus, Clara Koetlitz, who became his companion. From 1894 onward, he published his art history under the pseudonym "J. Mesnil." In Italy, Dwelshauvers was a close friend of Aby Warburg (q.v.) and Giovanni Poggi (q.v.). Between 1894 and 1914 Dwelshauvers as Mesnil contributed to a number of Italian, Belgian and French periodicals, including Il Pensiero, Miscellanea dell' Arte, Le Mercure de France, La Société nouvelle, Le Temps nouveaux and Van nu en straks. At the start of World War I he returned to Belgium. After the war Dwelshauvers associated with communist activities. His intent was to write a book on the whole of Tuscan history during the time of Botticelli. However, in 1938 he published his Botticelli, a work praised by Saxl for the introspection he read into Botticelli's people. In later years he was a friend of Romain Rolland. As the Germans invaded western Europe at the beginning of World War II, Dwelshauvers fled, ultimately to a monastery in France were, in the words of Fritz Saxl, "he died a refugee in a monastery on a bed of straw." Whether he took his own life or died naturally was never clear.

Dwelshauvers' (or Mesnil's) book on Botticelli comprised one of the major 20th-century research on the quattrocento master, together with Herbert Horne (q.v.). It was Dwelshauvers who determined that the "Adoration of the Magi" (Uffizi) was commissioned by Guasparre and not Giovanni del Lama. Ellis Waterhouse (q.v.) termed Dwelshauvers' Botticelli "a worthy successor to Horne." Dwelshauvers' economic approach to social history--he understood the social factors of artistic production--was well received by art historians.

Home Country: Belgium

Sources: Saxl, Fritz. "'Three “Florentines:' Herbert Horne, Aby Warburg, Jacques Mesnil." Lectures, vol. 1. 1957, pp. 342-44; Bonet, M.-N. "Dwelshauvers, Jean-Jacques." Dictionnaire biographique du mouvement ouvrier francais 12: 135-136.

Bibliography: "L'éducation des peintres florentins au XVe siècle." Revue des Idées (1910): 1-14; L’art au nord et au sud des Alpes à l’époque de la renaissance: études comparatives. Brussels: G. van Oest & cie, 1911; and Bertaux, Émile. Italie du Nord: Piémont, Ligurie, Lombardie, Vént́ie, Émilie, Toscane. Paris: Hachette, 1916; Masaccio et les débuts de la renaissance. The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1927; Frans Masereel. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Printed Privately by the Oriole Pr. 1934 [Excerpted from, Ishill, Joseph. Free Vistas: an Anthology of Life & Letters. vol. 1. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Oriole Press, 1933]; Botticelli. Paris: A. Michel, 1938; "On the Artistic Education of Botticelli." Burlington Magazine 78, no. 457 (April 1941): 118-123; Raphaël. Paris: Braun, 1943?