Sèvres in London

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on July 31, 2009
Joanna Gwilt is Assistant Curator of Works of Art at the Royal Collection. Formerly of the Wallace Collection she specialises in French eighteenth-century decorative arts, in particular Sèvres porcelain.

200 pages, 185 ills. Joanna Gwilt is Assistant Curator of Works of Art at the Royal Collection. Formerly of the Wallace Collection, she specialises in French eighteenth-century decorative arts, in particular Sèvres porcelain.

From the website of the British Royal Collection:

23 May — 11 October 2009
The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace — London

French Porcelain for English Palaces:
Sèvres from the Royal Collection

This exhibition brings together around 300 pieces created by the pre-eminent European porcelain factory of the 18th century. The finely painted and gilded works by Sèvres were loved by royalty, aristocrats, connoisseurs and collectors. The factory’s unrivalled techniques and complex methods of production appealed to their liking for the rare, exotic and extravagant.

The assemblage of Sèvres in the Royal Collection is considered to be the world’s finest.  Much of it was acquired between 1783 and 1830 by George IV, who popularised the taste for French porcelain in Britain. The King’s choice of Sèvres was greatly influenced by his admiration for and extensive knowledge of France and the French royal family. The French Revolution brought on to the market a vast quantity of furniture, porcelain and other works of art that had been the property of the French Crown and France’s erstwhile ruling classes, and there was an active trade in souvenirs of the old political and social system.

Sèvres Flower vase,  c.1760 (Royal Collection 36073)

Sèvres Flower Vase, c.1760 (RCIN 36073). The Royal Collection ©2009. The cuvette Mahon is named to commemorate the seizure by the French of the British-held port of Mahon on the island of Menorca in May 1756, at the start of the Seven Years War between France and England (1756-63). The painted scene depicting peasants drinking – one of whom stands brandishing an empty pitcher in the direction of a serving wench – may be inspired by a detail taken from "La Quatrième Fête Flamande," engraved by Philippe Le Bas (1707-83) after David Teniers the Younger.

Among the highlights of the exhibition are a garniture of three vases first bought by Marie-Antoinette and recently reunited through an acquisition by Her Majesty The Queen; a vase that was probably bought by Louis XV’s mistress Madame du Barry and is decorated with a youthful profile of the French king, and the Table of the Grand Commanders, which was made for Napoleon and given to George IV by Louis XVIII.

Sèvres suited George IV’s taste for lavish and colourful decoration, particularly at his London residence Carlton House. In 1783, at the age of 21, he made his first purchase from the factory and continued to buy as Prince of Wales, Regent and King. He bought ornamental vases to place on chimneypieces and furniture in the richly decorated principal rooms of Carlton House. Pieces were often grouped together by colour, shape or painted decoration. George IV also followed the French practice of displaying practical tablewares, such as broth basins and déjeneurs (tea sets), as bibelots or trinkets. To this day, dinner services bought by George IV continue to be used for State Banquets and ceremonial occasions.

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[Text and photos from the exhibition website; information on the Flower Vase, as presented on the Royal Collection site, is adapted from the catalogue, French Porcelain for English Palaces, Sèvres from the Royal Collection (London, 2009). Historical-fiction author Catherine Delors includes an informal review on her website, usefully noting that Sèvres remains an active state-owned manufacture of porcelain.]

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New Books

Posted in books by Editor on July 30, 2009



Here’s a selection of new titles from the July 25th issue of the Michael Shamansky catalogue. Shamansky – online as artbooks.com – specializes in monographs, guides, and exhibition catalogues imported from European publishers.

  • Viccy Coltman, Classical Sculpture and the Culture of Collecting in Britian since 1760 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 360 pp, 117 illus., $145
  • Francesca Nevola, Giovanni Battista Piranesi: The Grotteschi, the Early Years 1720 to 1750 (Rome: Ugo Bozzi, 2009), 221pp, 166 illus., $123
  • Nigel Aston, Art and Religion in Eighteenth-Century Europe (London: Reaktion Books, 2009) 344 pp., 110 illus., $45.00
  • Katrin Seibert, Rom besuchen: Italienreisen deutscher Künstlerinnen zwischen 1750 und 1850 (Munich: Meidenbauer, 2009) 2 vols., 473 text, 230 illus., $132
  • Lucio Fino, The Myth of Naples in Art and Literature by 17th- to 18th-Century Travelers (Napoli: Grimaldi, 2009) 240pp., 156 color plates, slipcase, English text, $145

Adam the Romantic

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on July 29, 2009

Robert Adam, "Cullen Castle, Banffshire," ca. 1770s (Edinburgh: National Gallery)

Robert Adam, "Cullen Castle, Banffshire," ca. 1770s (Edinburgh: National Gallery)

25 April – 2 August 2009
Robert Adam’s Landscape Fantasies:
Watercolors and Drawings from the Permanent Collection

National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

This is the final week for an exhibition in Edinburgh that explores a less familiar dimension of Robert Adam’s oeuvre. As noted from The Magazine Antiques:

The Scottish architect, interior designer, and furniture designer, who designed such neoclassical masterpieces as Kenwood House, Osterley Park, and Stowe, created the landscape watercolors and drawings on view toward the end of his life for his own private enjoyment. While some, such as this detailed depiction of Cullen Castle in Banffshire, painted about 1770 to 1780, portray real sites, the majority depict picturesque fantasies, evoking in an entirely Scottish guise the capricci of Giovanni Battista Piranesi, with whom Adam had studied while in Rome on an extended grand tour in the 1750s.

The more than thirty watercolors by Adam on view are accompanied by drawings by his sketching partners: his brother-in-law, John Clerk of Eldin, and Paul Sandby, an English landscape artist who traveled extensively through Scotland. These brooding, atmospheric renderings of steep cliffs, ancient castles, and gushing waterfalls offer up a cooling tonic to summer’s heat.

110.mediumThe show stands as a fine complement to an exhibition from 2000 mounted by the John Soane Museum, Robert Adam’s Castles, which included a catalogue by Stephen Astley. As described in the archives seciton of the museum’s website, the London show sought to

cast Robert Adam, Scotland’s most celebrated architect, in a dramatic new light, reassessing an important but much neglected element of his architectural portfolio, his designs in ‘the castle style’. Robust and sublime, Adam’s castles make a startling contrast to the refined and delicate decorative schemes for which the architect is principally known, and comprise over 10 percent of his career output. Of the realised castle projects, many have now gone and others lie in ruins – an unjust fate for a group of buildings representing the most personal expression of Adam’s art. (more…)

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On Haydn’s Trail: Eszterháza Palace, Hungary

Posted in anniversaries, on site by yonanm on July 27, 2009



Thomas Hardy, "Portrait of Joseph Haydn," 1791 (London: Royal College of Music) – click on the image for more information

2009 marks the 200th anniversary of the death of composer Joseph Haydn (1732–1809), a musical titan and key figure in the modern development of the string quartet and symphony. Musical significance aside, Haydn’s biography is a compelling one. Born into humble circumstances in the eastern Austrian village of Rohrau, he accomplished an internationally significant career without the benefit of birthright or privilege. Nor, for that matter, was he a shooting star: His career developed slowly over decades, and for much of it he lived and worked in relative isolation, a fact he himself credited with stimulating his creative impulses. From 1766 to 1790 he was resident at Eszterháza, the summer palace of the Esterházy noble family located in the village of Fertöd, 7 kilometers from the Austrian border in western Hungary. Seeing this palace has been a decade-long desire of mine, not just because I love Haydn’s music, but also because its architecture is grand enough to have earned it the epithet “The Hungarian Versailles.” In June I finally made it there, fittingly enough in the Haydn anniversary year.

Eszterháza Palace, from the courtyard

Eszterháza Palace, from the courtyard

Though not far from Vienna, Eszterháza is hard to reach without a car. Train access to Fertöd is nonexistent, and anyone wishing to brave the rural Hungarian bus system is bolder than I. Comparisons to Versailles notwithstanding, the building’s obvious inspiration is Schönbrunn, the Habsburg summer palace in Vienna, a legacy one notices in the bright yellow used for the palace’s exterior color.

Visiting this palace, I was reminded of the great difficulties facing cultural sites in former communist nations like Hungary. Whereas Austria approached the Haydn celebratory year with multiple aggressive tourist-centered advertising campaigns, at Eszterhaza, probably the most important extant building associated with Haydn, there was little visible indication of 2009’s importance. One small exhibition devoted to Haydn’s patron, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy (1714–1790), was on display, but it contained few artifacts of the composer and in fact barely mentioned him! Lack of resources is certainly the reason for this.

Detail from Ceremonial Hall, Eszterháza

Detail from Ceremonial Hall, Eszterháza

The palace’s greatest glories for me were its rococo rooms. One enters the grounds via a large square forecourt, notable for its curved corner facades, and walks past sculptures glorifying the Esterházy family’s conquests over the Ottomans. Inside, visitors are treated to a breathtaking succession of rooms treating varied subjects through intelligently designed rococo ornamental programs. The most impressive to me was the Ceremonial Hall, a large two-storied space at the palace’s center that was the site for large festivities. Here, the polychrome rocaille boiserie amazed with its elegant beauty and complex melding of forms. The room’s tonalities are built upon a white and pink base, with gold and silver ornamental filigree, and the decoration likewise featured putti, emblems, and multicolored flowers. The color scheme reminded me of certain Sèvres porcelains. Each ceiling corner featured a differently colored standard–orangey red, blue, green, and yellow—and overhead hung a Tiepolo-like ceiling painting.


Detail from first-floor salon, Eszterháza

On the ground floor, a semi-open garden space contained more rococo rooms, here in matte textures and featuring horticultural themes. There were frescoes too, one particularly funny one depicting putti twisting a garland of flowers into an ‘E’, for Esterházy of course. In several of the palace’s apartments, the prince’s artists created amazing chinoiserie frescoes modeled obviously on prints by Lajoue and Audran. Not all of the palace’s rooms have retained their original decoration, and the degree of repainting and alteration is an open question. The grounds certainly are much simplified over their likely eighteenth-century appearance. The tours were available in Hungarian only (!), but even with some sleuthing in the palace bookstore and elsewhere, it became clear that this building’s decorative history desperately needs additional study.

Chinoiserie wall decoration, Prince's apartments, Eszterháza

Chinoiserie wall decoration, Prince's apartments, Eszterháza

Ironically, in this place that was so central to Haydn’s activities, I found few traces of him and little official recognition of his accomplishments. But I did glean a vital sense of setting, and I understood how the dichotomies of a place like this could be conducive to creativity. Eszterháza is distant yet chic, quiet yet busy, and filled with abundant beauty both artistic and natural. Some lovely things came out of this obscure Hungarian place, and I am delighted to have finally seen it for myself.

♦ HECAA Member, Michael Yonan, is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He’s a great fan, as well as a scholar, of Central European rococo
palaces. Email:
© All rights reserved

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Wanted: ‘caa.reviews Field Editor’ for Architecture & Urbanism

Posted in books, opportunities by Editor on July 26, 2009

The July issue of CAA News, now available for download, includes the following announcement, which unfortunately comes with an August 1 deadline:

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CAA invites nominations and self-nominations for two field-editor positions for reviews of books and related media in caa.reviews  for a four-year term, through June 30, 2013. Needed now are specialists in pre-1800 architecture and urbanism and the art of Egypt and the Ancient Near East. This candidate may be an art historian, art critic, curator, or other art professional; institutional affiliation is not required.

Each field editor commissions reviews of books and related media for caa.reviews within an area of expertise. He or she selects books to be reviewed, commissions reviewers, determines the appropriate character of the reviews, and works with reviewers to develop manuscripts for publication. The field editor works with the caa.reviews Editorial Board as well as the caa.reviews editor-in-chief and CAA’s staff editor and is expected to keep abreast of newly published and important books and related media in his or her field of expertise.

The Council of Field Editors meets annually at the CAA Annual Conference. Field editors must pay travel and lodging expenses to attend the conference. Candidates must be current CAA members and should not be serving on the editorial board of a competitive journal or on another CAA editorial board or committee. Nominators should ascertain their nominee’s willingness to serve before submitting a name; self-nominations are also welcome. Please send a letter of interest, CV, and contact information to:

Chair, caa.reviews Editorial Board, CAA
275 Seventh Ave., 18th Floor
New York, NY 10001
or to caareviews@collegeart.org

Deadline: August 1, 2009

Grazie Mille!

Posted in site information by Editor on July 25, 2009

Editor’s Note

Whether you’re here for the twenty-fifth time or the first, thanks ever so much. After only a month, Enfilade has had just over a thousand visitors! Thanks especially to those of you who have sent in ideas. I’m more convinced than ever of the need for this kind of information entrepôt. In addition to serving the immediate function of communicating HECAA news, the site also aims to promote the field of eighteenth-century art history more generally. It is an extraordinary period for the visual arts, and we all probably could do a better job of making that case, both to academic colleagues and the broader public. If you’re not a HECAA member, you are by all means most welcome here. At the same time, we hope you’ll consider joining; at $20 it’s a bargain even during a recession (and just $5 for students).

In the coming weeks, you’ll hear directly from a widening range of voices – starting on Monday with an ‘On Site’ piece from Michael Yonan. So please continue to pass along notices regarding exhibitions, CFPs, and new books. But also consider submitting content of your own – reflections on particular aspects of the field, a response to a recent museum visit, a review of two or three articles linked by a common theme, or perhaps a favorite teaching assignment. I know all too well the tinge of panic that sets in at August: where has the summer gone, and how can I still have this much to do? But articles for Enfilade need not be long (300-600 words), and in contrast to most forms of academic publishing, you’ll have readers taking notice within a matter of days.

Thanks again for such a strong launch!
Craig Hanson

May I please . . .

Posted in books, reviews by Editor on July 25, 2009

0226046389.jpegFor many art historians, summer is the season for securing permissions for publishing images in forthcoming articles and books. Even without the copyright challenges that face our colleagues working on twentieth-century topics, the process is still often laborious and expensive. Susan Bielstein, Executive Editor for Art, Architecture, Classical Studies and Film at the University of Chicago Press, provides an essential starting point with her 2006 book, Permissions, A Survival Guide: Blunt Talk About Art as Intellectual Property.

Writing for caa.reviews, Christine Kuan, Senior Editor for Grove Art Online/Grove Dictionaries of Art, Oxford University Press, calls the book “concise, engaging, and digestible,” a valuable guide to a “convoluted and vexed subject.”

In thirteen chapters containing summaries of major court cases and their ramifications, countless hilarious anecdotes illustrative of copyright conundrums, footnotes, sample letters, useful sidebars, a sample image permissions log, a list of image sources, and suggested further reading, this book deftly interweaves explanations of intellectual property issues with real-life experiences in academic publishing.

Soon after the book’s release, Bielstein appeared on “The Library Café,” a weekly radio program from Vassar College then hosted by Dr. Thomas Hill. The website for WVKR FM 91.3 includes a ‘Listen Link’ for the 2007 episode featuring Bielstein. In addition to talking about her book, Bielstein addresses the state of the field of art history publishing more generally.

Prints in Valencia: Goya and Piranesi

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on July 24, 2009


June 10 — July 26, 2009

This is the final weekend of an exhibition of Goya’s Tauromaquia at the Bancaja Cultural Center in Valencia. Produced around 1815, these prints dedicated to the history of bullfighting are discussed in Andy Schulz’s recent article, “Moors and the Bullfight: History and National Identity in Goya’s Tauromaquia,” Art Bulletin 90 (June 2008).

In the fall, the Bancaja Center will host an exhibition of Piranesi’s prints on loan from the Museu de Montserrat. The show opens on September 10 and runs until November 8.

Amazon + Ann Arbor = ?

Posted in books, the 18th century in the news by Editor on July 24, 2009

An agreement announced earlier this week between Amazon.com and the University of Michigan will make over 400,000 rare books available through softcover reprints, ranging in price from $10-45. No word yet on what eighteenth-century works are included, but might there be possibilities for teaching texts? Should we be thrilled or wary? For details, see this article at the University of Michigan’s ‘New Service’.

Call for Papers: Venice at Sea

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on July 23, 2009

Venice Street detail, photo by Maria Schnitzmeier (Wikimedia Commons)

From H-Net:

Venice and the Mediterranean 13th – End of 18th Centuries, in connection with the Third Mediterranean Maritime History Network (MMHN) Conference

Izmir, Turkey
May 5-7, 2010

Contact Professor Jean-Calude Hocquet (ruger@research.haifa.ac.il, jc-hocquet@wanadoo.fr)

Proposals are due 29 August 2009

See also the general CFPs.

Venice from the Ca d’Oro, photo by Procsilas Moscas, April 2005 (Wikimedia Commons)

The Grand Canal from the Ca d’Oro, photo by Procsilas Moscas (Wikimedia Commons)

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