The Monuments Men

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Cecil Gould ( 1918-1924 )

Cecil Hilton Monk Gould was a prolific art historian specializing in Italian Renaissance painting. He traveled extensively throughout his life and became highly respected for his meticulous scholarship and devotion to connoisseurship. Born in London, Gould was the son of Admiralty Lieutenant Commander Rupert Thomas Gould, panelist of the BBC "Brains Trust" program during World War II, and Muriel Hilda Estall Gould. After learning German at a young age while attending Westminster School in Germany, he entered the Courtauld Institute of Art in 1939 but never completed his degree.

When war broke out in 1939, Gould joined Royal Air Force Intelligence and served as part of the British Expeditionary Force in France in 1940, in Egypt in 1941, and in Italy in 1943. He served alongside Allied forces stationed in Normandy beginning in August 1944. A few months later in early 1945, Gould was transferred to the MFAA and assigned as the Specialist Officer for the headquarters of Twenty-First Army Group.

As part of the Internal Affairs and Communications Division of the Control Commission for Germany (British Element), he was stationed first in Münster and then in Bünde starting in autumn 1945. Throughout his work as a Monuments Officer, Gould examined damaged monuments and investigated claims for looted art. His reports were submitted to the War Crimes Tribunal in Nuremberg.

Gould’s sister Jocelyne also served in World War II as an officer at Bletchley Park, the secret establishment in Buckinghamshire, England charged with breaking the German ENIGMA code.

Gould briefly returned to London in February 1946 to interview for the position of Assistant Keeper at the National Gallery. He accepted the post and started a few months later. Thus began a long career at the National Gallery which included his appointment to Keeper and Deputy Director in 1973 until his retirement in 1978. In 1970, Gould’s research revealed the Gallery’s Portrait of Pope Julius II to be an original by Raphael rather than a copy as previously believed. He was also responsible for the new attribution of the National Gallery’s previously unidentified Entombment to Michelangelo.

Cecil Gould died on April 7, 1994 at the age of 75. He left behind an incredible legacy of art historical scholarship including An Introduction to Italian Renaissance Painting, the National Gallery’s extensive catalog of 16th-century Italian paintings. One of his most important works, the catalog was initially published in two volumes in 1959 and 1962 and then reissued as a single revised volume in 1975. His 1964 Charlton Lectures at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne were published in 1966 as Michelangelo: Battle of Cascina, while his 1965 book Trophy of Conquest directly recalled his experiences as a Monuments Officer in its historical account of Napoleon’s looting of artworks for the Louvre. Also at the National Gallery, Gould published in-depth studies of Leonardo da Vinci (1975), Correggio (1976), and Bernini (1981) that are still used by art history students today. In the last years of his life, Gould completed a monograph on Parmigianino which was posthumously published in 1995.