Reviewed | Extravagant Inventions

Posted in books, catalogues, Member News, reviews by Editor on June 20, 2013

Recently added to caa.reviews:

Wolfram Koeppe, Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012), 304 pages, ISBN: 978-0300185027, $75.

Reviewed by Michael Yonan; Department of Art History & Archaeology, University of Missouri; posted 6 June 2013.

9780300185027Once in a while an exhibition comes along that achieves many things. It illuminates past and present, and does so by creating a viewing experience both beautiful and instructive. All the better when such an exhibition also brightens up a blind spot in the history of art. The exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art entitled ‘Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens’ achieved this. Curated by Wolfram Koeppe, Maria Kellen French Curator of European Decorative Arts, the show was a monographic investigation of father-and-son furniture makers Abraham (1711–1793) and David Roentgen (1743–1807), whose workshop in the German town of Neuwied produced furniture for the European elite between 1743 and 1800. By my estimation this was the decorative arts show of the decade, an educationally illuminating and utterly enjoyable museum experience whose rewards far
exceeded, in the words of a colleague of mine, the
opportunity to look at ‘old desks’. . . .

The full review is available here» (CAA membership required)

Reviewed | Taking Time: ‘Chardin’s Boy Building a House of Cards’

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions, reviews by Editor on May 19, 2013

Recently added to caa.reviews:

Juliet Carey, with essays by Pauline Prévost-Marcilhacy, Pierre Rosenberg and Katie Scott, Taking Time: “Chardin’s Boy Building a House of Cards” and Other Paintings (London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2012), 160 pages, ISBN: 978-1907372339, £30.

Reviewed by Paula Rea Radisich, Department of Art and Art History, Whittier College; posted 16 May 2013.

‘Taking Time: Chardin’s “Boy Building a House of Cards” and Other Paintings’ is the catalogue accompanying an exhibition mounted at Waddesdon Manor, the country house in Buckinghamshire, England, built in the nineteenth century for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild. Today the manor is run jointly by the National Trust and a charitable Rothschild Family Trust headed by Jacob Rothschild, 4th Lord Rothschild. In 2007, the trust purchased Jean-Siméon Chardin’s ‘Boy Building a House of Cards’ (1735). ‘Taking Time’ celebrates the arrival of Chardin’s painting to Waddesdon Manor, where it joins another famous genre painting by Chardin, ‘Girl with a Shuttlecock’ (1737), on loan from the Rothschild Collection, Paris.

As Lord Rothschild notes in his foreword to the catalogue, this is the first time Waddesdon has organized an exhibition consisting of loans from other countries. The curatorial premise of the show was to display the Waddesdon ‘House of Cards’ with Chardin’s other versions of the same subject belonging to the Louvre, the National Gallery in London, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. . . .

The full review is available here» (CAA membership required)

New Book | Une Facétie de Fragonard

Posted in books, reviews by Editor on May 6, 2013

From the publisher:

Carole Blumenfeld, Une Facétie de Fragonard: Les révélations d’un dessin retrouvé (Paris: Editions Gourcuff-Gradenigo, 2013), 80 pages, ISBN: 978-2353401475, 20€.

Couverture_FragonardL’ouvrage de Carole Blumenfeld apporte un éclairage nouveau sur les talents de portraitistes de Fragonard et lève le voile sur l’identité de chacun des personnages qui se cachent derrière Diderot, La Guimard, L’Inspiration, L’étude…

Les Figures de fantaisie de Fragonard comptent parmi les œuvres les plus éblouissantes, les plus célèbres et les plus énigmatiques de l’histoire de la peinture française. La découverte d’un dessin inédit de l’artiste vient bouleverser aujourd’hui tout ce que nous savions de ces silhouettes peintes en « une heure de temps ». Il apporte la preuve indubitable qu’elles sont des portraits et non des figures imaginaires. Fragonard a en effet esquissé au crayon, sur une feuille, dix-huit de ses tableaux en marquant les noms de chacun de ses modèles. Dans de nombreux cas, il s’agit de révélations étonnantes qui contredisent des certitudes acquises au cours des années.

Available from ArtBooks.com

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Didier Rykner reported on the book’s discoveries for The Art Tribune (4 December 2012). . .

The Fragonard portrait which has, almost, always been known as Portrait of Diderot is in fact not a likeness of the philosopher as proven by the drawing recently auctioned off and published for the first time on 17 July on The Art Tribune by Marie-Anne Dupuy-Vachey.

However, she was not alone in immediately recognizing the probable importance of the sheet. Hubert Duchemin, a Parisian expert and dealer, along with his collaborator Lilas Sharifzadeh, also guessed its likely pedigree. At the auction, Hubert Duchemin made the final bid, a high price given the uncertainty still surrounding the work. After the sale, he turned it over for study to Carole Blumenfeld, the art historian. Now, a small book will appear on 13 December [2012] at Editions Gourcuff-Gradenigo and will reveal the very fruitful results of this research. . .

The full article is available here»

The Burlington Magazine, March 2013

Posted in books, journal articles, reviews by Editor on March 31, 2013

The eighteenth century in The Burlington:

The Burlington Magazine 155 (March 2013)


cover• “Mind Your Language,” p. 151. The incorrect and exaggerated use of language in the art press.

. . . A recent article in the Guardian [Andy Beckett, "A User's Guide to Artspeak," The Guardian (27 January 2013)] reported on a private initiative by two Americans, an artist and a critic/sociologist, who have investigated the language of contemporary art description, culled from wall labels and gallery press releases from 1999 onwards [David Levine and Alix Rule, "International Art English," Triple Canopy 16 (July 2012)]. Their survey is analytic rather than satiric, and they trace the origins of what they call ‘International Art English’ to much French post- structuralist theory. They make excellent, deadpan fun of the commercial gallery press release which now goes well beyond its earlier professional constituency to reach a broad emailed audience. At the Burlington, where we receive thousands of such releases each year from many countries, we can testify to the universality of this artspeak obscurantism. But even in the more comprehensible releases, for exhibitions or books, the clichés mount up: the works are ‘brand new’; the exhibits are ‘iconic’; the paintings are ‘vibrant’ (and also, of course, ‘masterful’); the artist is never less than ‘award winning’; and the new book (invariably a ‘comprehensive overview’) is ‘groundbreaking’, ‘lavishly illustrated’ and ‘thought-provoking’. These all accumulate into a prose of deadly conformity. . . Keep reading here»


• Perrin Stein, “Greuze’s L’Accordée de Village: A Rediscovered Première Pensée,” pp. 162-66. The rediscovery of a watercolour study (c.1761) of Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s L’Accordée de Village.


• Antony Griffiths, Review of Ad Stijnman, Engraving and Etching 1400–2000: A History of the Development of Manual Intaglio Printmaking Processes (London: Archetype Books, 2012), p. 177.

This monument book is  the result of twenty-five years’ work on the part of the author who has produced a text far ahead of anything yet written on this aspect of printmaking. . . His conclusions have an authority that immediately makes this a standard work, and it can confidently be recommended to any reader. . .

• Claudia Nordhoff, Review of the exhibition Johann Christian Reinhart (1761–1847): Ein deutscher Landschaftsmaler in Rom,” pp. 199-200.

The Burlington Magazine, November 2012

Posted in books, exhibitions, journal articles, reviews by Editor on November 16, 2012

The eighteenth century in The Burlington:

The Burlington Magazine 154 (November 2012)

• Marjorie Trusted, “Two Eighteenth-Century Sculpture Acquisitions for the Victoria and Albert Museum, London,” pp. 773-79. Two marble sculptures, a Crouching Venus by John Nost (1702) and a relief of Julius Caesar Invading Britain by John Deare (1796), have been acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
• Gauvin Alexander Bailey, “French Rococo Prints and Eighteenth-Century Altarpieces in Buenos Aires,” pp. 780-85. French Rococo designs used in altarpiece decorations in eighteenth-century Buenos Aires.

• Philip Ward-Jackson, Review of Stefano Grandesso and Laila Skjøthaug, Bertel Thorvaldsen, 1770–1844 (Milan: Silvana, 2010), pp. 798-99.
• Mark Stocker, Review of Mary Ann Steggles and Richard Barnes, British Sculpture in India: New Views and Old Memories (Kirstead, Norfolk: Frontier Publishing, 2011), pp. 800-01.
• Christopher Baker, Review of the exhibition and catalogue The English Prize: The Capture of the Westmorland, an Episode of the Grand Tour (2012), pp. 817-18.

Exhibition | Bronze at The Royal Academy

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions, reviews by Editor on October 20, 2012

Reviewed for Enfilade by Craig Ashley Hanson

Royal Academy of Arts, London, 15 September — 9 December 2012

Curated by David Ekserdjian and Cecilia Treves

Critics have been raving about Bronze since it opened last month at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Notwithstanding the exhibition’s sweeping coverage–in terms of geography and history–I didn’t initially include it here at Enfilade as I had trouble finding eighteenth-century points of relevance. Indeed, out of dozens of objects shown across ten rooms, only a handful of works were produced during the period. And yet, now that I’ve seen the exhibition, I’m convinced dix-huitièmistes should pay attention.

Organized by theme rather than time and place, the range of works is staggering. If, in keeping with traditional historiographical models, the show begins with an achingly beautiful example from ancient Greece–a recently recovered Dancing Satyr–it quickly brings an international array of work into open and productive dialogue. On display are works from Ghana and Nigeria, Eturia and Rome, China and Japan, Northern Europe and the United States. Categories one might expect to see are well represented: ritual dining vessels from Shang dynasty tombs, classicizing work from Renaissance Florence, Buddhist work from India (including an extraordinary sixth-century Buddha Shakyamuni from Bihar). Rodin’s Age of Bronze is, of course, included. But there are surprises, too: ancient court objects from Israel (a crown, scepter, and vulture standard), sixteenth-century French spurs, a basketball by Jeff Koons. Works by Giambologna appear next to an oversized spider by Louise Bourgeois (climbing the wall, no less).

François Girardon, Laocoön and His Sons, ca. 1690 Houghton Hall, Norfolk/Photo © Royal Academy of Arts, London, Roy Fox (click for more info)

While it all could have gone horribly wrong, the experience of viewing the exhibition appears to be, for most viewers, one of coherence rather than confusion, coherence derived from the thoughtful attention to the possibilities of bronze as a material. The medium is the subject in an entirely convincing, indeed revelatory manner. The varieties of objects, selected from a global vision of art history, work thanks to careful attention to exploration of seven thematic categories: figures, animals, groups, objects, reliefs, gods, and heads. Scale and texture, color and composition, the tensile strength and resulting artistic flexibility of bronze all become matters of first, rather than passing, interest.

And for the eighteenth-century? The final room of heads includes original choices: Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi’s Damned Soul of 1705 after Bernini and Anne Damer’s Mary Berry from 1793, while François Girardon’s Laocoön from Houghton Hall, ca. 1690, exerts a commanding presence in the gallery dedicated to groups. Particularly compelling for me, in that same room, is the sensitive installation of Francesco Bertos’s 1730s allegorical group of Sculpture, Arithmetic, and Architecture from the Prado. Placed alongside Giambologna’s 1576 Nessus and Deianira (a centaur abduction scene) and Alessandro Algardi’s 1647 St. Michael Overcoming the Devil, Bertos’s work appears as an entirely legible development from Renaissance humanism, to forceful Baroque religious expression, to refined Enlightened optimism. Adrian de Vries’s Hercules, Nessus and Deianira of 1622 dominates the center of the gallery, making the relationships–the similarities and differences within this 150-year period–all the more striking.

Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi, after Bernini, Damned Soul (‘Anima Dannata’), 1705-07. Bronze with golden-red lacquer patina, 39.5 cm. Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna. Photo © Liechtenstein. The Princely Collections, Vaduz-Vienna

And so historical arguments do exist within the exhibition, even if there’s no obvious central argument based on tracking change over time (it is I think one reason material from all over the world can be placed side by side so effectively). One may wish there were more eighteenth-century offerings–I’ll leave those criticisms to the sound judgment of my colleagues. But, for me, it is an exhibition that likely would make a lot more sense to eighteenth-century connoisseurs than the much more tightly focused, monographic approaches dominating exhibitions in the present age. No only is it a show I think many eighteenth-century viewers would understand (with admittedly a bit of instruction), it’s a show I think they would like.

Alongside it, the catalogue offers innovative models for thinking about different ways exhibitions generally might succeed. The book pairs beautifully with the catalogue for the 2009 exhibition Cast in Bronze: French Sculpture from Renaissance to Revolution, available–for anyone regretting that there aren’t more eighteenth-century works on
display–in the Royal Academy gift shop on the way out.

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Catalogue: Bronze (London: Royal Academy Publications, 2012), 248 pages, ISBN: 9781907533280, $65.

Bronze, long celebrated for its durability and the wide range of effects that it offers, has been prized as an artistic material in many parts of the world throughout the ages. Magnificent bronze sculptures from the ancient times have emerged unscathed after millennia on the sea bed. It is a material that has been used on all scales, from the minute to the monumental. This sumptuous catalogue examines bronze’s earliest beginnings in North Africa, the Middle East and China as it transcended tools and weaponry to become a medium of fine art. Expert authors chart the virtuousity of artists in ancient Greece and Rome; developments in Asia and Africa; bronze’s great flowering in the European Renaissance and its use in the modern era by artists such as Rodin, Picasso, Brancusi and Bourgeois.

A unique testament to the works of art that one medium has inspired, Bronze contains lavish colour plates of over 150 masterworks arranged chronologically to take the reader on a voyage through time, tracing the work of sculptors, casters and chasers through the centuries.

New Title | The Origins of Sex

Posted in books, reviews by Editor on October 14, 2012

Dabhoiwala’s book appeared earlier this year, building on a 2010 Past and Present article, and I should have noted it months ago. I’m not sure scholarly reviews of it are yet in (please add what I’ve overlooked), but it was reviewed widely in the popular press. Here’s one of those from The Literary Review:

Faramerz Dabhoiwala, The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2012), 496 pages, ISBN: 9780199892419, $35.

Reviewed by Norma Clarke, Kingston University

A woman born in 1600 grew up being told she was the most lustful of God’s creatures. Come 1800 and the message was reversed: she was ‘naturally’ delicate and pure. No longer having lusts of her own to manage, her role was to control the ‘natural’ lust of men and thus preserve civilisation. Dogmas about sexuality had undergone remarkable change. What remained the same was female subordination.

In this ambitious and wide-ranging book, Faramerz Dabhoiwala charts what he calls ‘a history of the first sexual revolution’. He examines the religious, economic, intellectual and social pressures that provided the context for a shift in attitudes towards sexuality. The move from pre-modern to modern times was towards sexual permissiveness and privacy, and away from external controls of individual sexual behaviours. . . .

The full review is available here»

New Novel | The Potter’s Hand

Posted in books, reviews by Editor on September 23, 2012

Just out in the UK from Atlantic Books:

A. N. Wilson, The Potter’s Hand (London: Atlantic, 2012), 512 pages, ISBN: 9781848879515, £18.

In 1774, Josiah Wedgwood, master craftsman possessed with a burning scientific vision, embarks upon the thousand piece Frog Service for Catherine the Great. Josiah’s nephew Tom journeys to America to buy clay from the Cherokee for this exquisite china. Tom is caught up in the American rebellion, and falls for a Cherokee woman who will come to play a crucial role in Josiah’s late, great creation: the Portland Vase. As the family fortune is made, and Josiah’s entrepreneurial brilliance creates an empire that will endure for generations, it is his daughter Sukey, future mother of Charles Darwin, who bears clear-eyed witness.

A novel of epic scope, rich in warmth, intellect and humanity, The Potter’s Hand explores the lives and loves of one of Britain’s greatest families, whose travails are both ordinary — births, deaths, marriages, opium addiction, depression — and utterly extraordinary.

A. N. Wilson grew up in Staffordshire, where his father was Managing Director of Josiah Wedgwood and Sons. He was educated at Rugby and New College, Oxford. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he holds a prominent position in the world of literature and journalism. He is a prolific and award-winning biographer and celebrated novelist. His most recent novel, Winnie and Wolf, was longlisted for the 2007 Man Booker Prize. He lives in North London.

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From Country Life:

Reviewed by Giles Waterfield; posted 10 September 2012.

Historian, biographer, commentator and novelist A. N. Wilson is full of variety. Having recently written about St Paul and Adolf Hitler, he turns his attention in this long and richly flavoured novel to Josiah Wedgwood, probably the most famous of all British ceramicists, at least until the 20th century. Wedgwood excelled as craftsman, designer and businessman, building up the ceramics industry in Staffordshire. . .

This boldly panoramic novel mixes history and invention, swooping from the narrator’s viewpoint to the personal feelings of the very large cast of characters. Highly experienced narrator that he is, Mr Wilson skilfully interweaves his various plots, yet keeps Wedgwood, his wife and his daughter Sukie at the centre of the book. This is the historical novel at its most ambitious.

The full review is available here»

June 2012 Issue of ‘The Court Historian’

Posted in books, conferences (summary), journal articles, reviews by Editor on September 21, 2012

Eighteenth-century topics in the current issue of The Court Historian 17 (June 2012) . . .


• Clarissa Campbell Orr, “Popular History, Court Studies, and Courtier Diaries,” pp. 1-15.

• Robin Thomas, “Building the Monarchy: The Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, 1737,” pp. 35-60

• Neil Jeffares, “Between France and Bavaria: Louis-Joseph d’Albert de Luynes, Prince de Grimberghen,” pp. 61-85.


• Clare Hornsby, Review of David Marshall, Susan Russell, and Karin Wolfe, eds., Roma Britannica: Art Patronage and Cultural Exchange in Eighteenth-Century Rome (London: British School at Rome, 2011), pp. 91-93.

• Wolf Burchard, Review of Christina Strunck and Elisabeth Kieven, eds., Europäische Galeriebauten: Galleries in a Comparative European Perspective (1400-1800), Römische Studien der Bibliotheca Hertziana 29 (Munich: Hirmer Verlag, 2010); and Mathieu da Vinha and Claire Constans, eds., Les grandes galeries européennes XVIIe-XIXe siècles (Paris: Éditions de la Maison des sciences de l’homme, 2010), pp. 95-104.

Conference Reports

• Antonio Ernesto Denunzio, “Aristocratic Residences in Naples: The Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano and Arts Patronage by the Nobility from the 16th to the 20th Centuries” (Naples, October 2011), pp. 113-14.

• Charles C. Noel, “The Court in Europe: Politics and Religion, 1500-1800,” (Madrid, December 2010), pp. 117-20.

New Field Editor for Eighteenth-Century Art at ‘caa.reviews’

Posted in books, reviews by Editor on September 20, 2012

From the Editor

I am thrilled to announce that I’ll be stepping in as the new field editor for Eighteenth-Century Art at caa.reviews, succeeding Laura Auricchio who has brilliantly filled the position since 2007. I am especially grateful to both Laura and the editor-in-chief of caa.reviews, Sheryl Reiss, for all they’ve done to facilitate what, I hope, will be a smooth transition.

Published by the College Art Association, caa.reviews plays a valuable role for the scholarly community, keeping a pulse on art historical discourse but also — crucially, to my thinking — helping shape that discourse with more reviews and more timely reviews than would have ever been possible from CAA’s paper-based publications. As I’ve often said in my capacity as editor at Enfilade, I now say in this new role as a caa.reviews editor: the success of the publication depends upon you, the readers. I’ll do my best to invite thoughtful, engaged responses to a selection of the most striking and substantive scholarship addressing the eighteenth century, to give you good cause to keep reading. While promising neither revolutions (glorious or otherwise) nor sweeping societal enlightenment — certainly no guarantees regarding the sublime — I can affirm that I approach the position as an amateur, in the best sense of the eighteenth-century designation, as one who finds much to love in this period, a period as central as ever for grappling with questions of what it means to be human, what it means to make and use art, what it means to be modern, and what it means to address the past productively.

-Craig Ashley Hanson

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About caa.reviews

Founded in 1998, caa.reviews publishes timely scholarly and critical reviews of studies and projects in all areas and periods of art history, visual studies, and the fine arts, providing peer review for the disciplines served by the College Art Association. Publications and projects reviewed include books, articles, exhibitions, conferences, and other works as appropriate. It also publishes essays on these subjects, as well as on art education and policy and related topics. In reviewing and publishing recent texts and projects, caa.reviews fosters timely, worldwide access to the intellectual and creative materials and issues of art-historical, critical, curatorial, and studio practice, and promotes the highest standards of discourse in the disciplines of art and art history. The journal is published on a continual basis by the College Art Association. Access to caa.reviews is a benefit of membership in the College Art Association. For details about becoming a CAA member, please visit CAA’s membership pages.


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