Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in today in light of the 18th century by Editor on November 25, 2009

Two eighteenth-century offerings to celebrate the U.S. holiday:

Philipp Ferdinand de Hamilton (?), "Wild Turkey," ca. 1725-1750 (Chicago: Smart Museum of Art)

1) By clicking here, you can listen to a fascinating lecture (recorded 23 March 2006) from the food historian Elizabeth Reily on the topic of “Benjamin Franklin and the Wild Turkey.” The lecture is made available by the Forum Network, a public media service of PBS and NPR.

2) The painting shown at the right is part of the collection of the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago. The following description by Ingrid Rowland comes from the exhibition catalogue, which she edited, The Place of the Antique in Early Modern Europe (Chicago: Smart Museum of Art, 1999), pp. 95-96:

By the early eighteenth century, painted reveries like this lively portrayal of a wild turkey combined the precision of Dutch still life with the epic sweep of Italian baroque histories . . . This wild turkey, a New World bird, perches among other birds large and small above a battered fragment of carved stone relief, while in the background an Egyptian sphinx crouches on its high pedestal . . . . A likely candidate for that owner is Prince Eugene of Savoy, whose Belvedere Palace in Vienna boasted a sphinx among its many antiquities and an aviary as part of its menagerie. The prince’s birds, beasts, gardens, and antiquities were all commemorated in a series of twelve engravings by Salomon Kleiner (1734) . . . Prince Eugene also commissioned such stagey views of nature and antiquity from painters like Philip Ferdinand de Hamilton, a Belgian of Scots family who emigrated to Vienna before 1700, and the Viennese Ignaz Heinitz von Heintzenthal. . . . of the two, de Hamilton worked in an intimate style closer to that of the Smart painting. . . .

Chinoiserie in the Bedroom

Posted in today in light of the 18th century by Editor on November 25, 2009

John Linnell, Badminton Bed, ca. 1754 (London: V&A)

Today at Style Court, Courtney Barnes addresses four-poster beds, including John Linnell’s exquisite Badminton Bed, ca. 1754, from the collection of the Victoria and Albert. A design blog with a focus on interiors, Style Court regularly covers a variety of artistic topics with an interest in bridging the worlds of the academy and the museum for a wider, general public.

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From the V&A’s website:

The exotic form of this bed was inspired by Chinese pagodas. The design and the pierced fretwork back are similar to garden tea pavilions built in the Chinese style and found in large gardens throughout Britain and Europe from about 1730. Chinese decoration was particularly popular for ladies’ bedrooms and dressing rooms.

Although the payments for the bed and other bedroom furniture were made jointly by the 4th Duke and Duchess of Beaufort, evidence in the Duchess’s private notebooks shows that she was particularly interested in this commission and probably discussed the details with the designer and craftsman John Linnell and his father William Linnell.

The bed hangings had been replaced with scarlet woollen hangings by 1835, although the bedding still included the original 18th-century hair mattress which was acquired with the bed by the Museum in 1921. In addition there was a feather bed, three blankets, a wool mattress, a straw paliasse (another form of mattress) and a Marsella quilt. In 1929 a replica of the bed was made for the Chinese Bedroom at Badminton House by Angell of Bath.

Paul Sandby’s Bicentenary

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on November 25, 2009

From the website of the National Gallery of Scotland:

Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain
Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, 25 July — 18 October 2009
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 7 November 2009 — 7 February 2010
Royal Academy of Arts, London, 13 March — 13 June 2010


Paul Sandby, "Windsor Castle from Datchet Lane on a Rejoicing Night," Photograph: The Royal Collection © 2009 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain looks at all aspects of Sandby’s career and includes studies of rural and urban views, street scenes, royal parks and ancient castles. Sandby explored a broader range of subject matter than any previous artist in Britain and was integral in refining the use of watercolour. This exhibition features over one hundred loans, including oil paintings, watercolours, gouaches, prints and sketchbooks, coming from all the major collections which house his work: The Royal Collection, The British Museum, The British Library, The Victoria and Albert Museum, and The Yale Center for British Art. It also showcases outstanding works from private collections.

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Addressing the exhibition in The Gaurdian (7 November 2009), Linda Colley describes Sandby’s standing in British society, then and now:


Stephen Daniels, et al (London: Royal Academy of Arts), ISBN: 978-1905711482, 216 pages, $55

. . . As George III’s remark illustrates, this view of him has always been coloured by varieties of snobbery. To this extent, the portrait of Sandby by Francis Cotes, showing him leaning out of a country house window, sketchbook in hand, can be seen as a calculated puff by a close friend. It accurately conveys Sandby’s good looks and pleasant temperament. But the portrait gives a flatteringly deceptive impression of a man as much at ease in polite and leisured interiors as he is with nature. In reality, Sandby’s family background was considerably more humble than that of Gainsborough or John Constable. Unlike his fellow academician Joshua Reynolds, Sandby was never a fashionable, expensive portrait painter. Nor was he a practitioner of academically prestigious history painting. And, crucially, unlike JMW Turner or Thomas Girtin, Sandby was not a metropolitan.

The son of a framework knitter, he was baptised in Nottingham in 1731; and this exhibition is very much a Nottingham achievement, where it was first displayed. The show, opening today at the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh, and at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in March, was conceived by Stephen Daniels of Nottingham University. It is exactly the sort of deeply researched and ambitious regional art exhibition that is likely to be rendered increasingly impracticable because of government, municipal and corporate spending cuts. . . .

Sandby’s vision then is substantially (not entirely) loyalist and conventionally patriotic, and this may be another reason why his work is sometimes passed over. Morning, an extraordinary painting of a massive, venerable beech tree set firm in a Shropshire landscape, is, for instance, a powerfully loyalist testament. Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1794, five years after the fall of the Bastille and in the midst of war, the painting would have been understood as an allusion to contemporary conservative celebrations of an ancient, organic British constitution as against the recent republican outgrowths of revolutionary France. As the exhibition catalogue argues, Sandby’s vision was also increasingly a Britannic one. Like Turner, Sandby made repeated tours throughout Wales and Scotland, representing not just their scenic and cultural differences, but also the ways in which these countries were undergoing change and becoming in some respects far more closely linked with England. . . .

For the full article, click here»

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