The Kann brothers, Maurice and Rodolphe, were born in Germany, but later lived in Paris, where they prospered as bankers. They owed their vast fortunes to the diamond and gold mines of South Africa. They began to acquire pictures in 1880, and in the course of only twenty-five years had filled what were considered the finest private galleries in Paris, and among the finest in Europe. Rodolphe Kann was an exacting collector who sought out the rarest and best, recruiting the assistance of the most scientific connoisseurs, and backing their opinions with his considerable resources. He formed his collection primarily in the Paris and London art markets. Kann had a strong interest in paintings of the 17th century, especially those of the Dutch school, but sometimes chose to purchase prominent Dutch and Italian paintings of the 15th century, and also acquired a number of 18th-century French and English pictures. In 1900 Wilhelm Bode published a massive, extensively illustrated volume on Kann's pictures and an even more lavishly produced catalogue in 4 volumes appeared in 1907. Friedländer referred in 1901 to Rodolphe Kann's collection as "superior to all private galleries on the continent excepting, perhaps, that of Prince Liechtenstein in Vienna." Rodolphe Kann died in February 1905; his brother Maurice died in May 1906. In 1907 a young Joseph Duveen made one of his first great coups as an art dealer by acquiring the entire Kann collection from the estate of Rodolphe Kann, which was handled by Edouard Gustave Kann, Betty Kann Schnaffer, Martin and Eleonore Kann Bromberg; Jacob and Mathilde Kann Emden, and Leopold Ermond and Madeline Amelie Kann Bickford-See.
Bode, Wilhelm. Die Gemälde-Galerie des Herrn R. Kann in Paris. (Trans. French by A. Marguillier). Vienna, 1900: 100 plates.
Michel, E. Gazette des Beaux-Arts 25 (1901): 385, 493.
"Necrologie." La Chronique des Arts no. 19 (12 May 1906): 155.
Nicholle, Marcel. "La Collection Rodolphe Kann." La Revue de l'Art 23 (1908): 187-204.
Gillet, Louis. "La Collection Maurice Kann." La Revue de l'Art 26 (November 1909): 361-374, 421-34.