Motion Pictures in the Eighteenth Century

Posted in Art Market by Editor on August 9, 2011

Earlier this summer, Sotheby’s offered a rare set of five landscape transparencies by Carmontelle (many of you will remember the 2006 exhibition at The Getty of related materials). Estimated to fetch £350,000-500,000, the paintings, in fact, did not sell. Press release from 1 July 2011:

Louis Carrogis called Carmontelle, Set of five landscape transparencies, from the "Campagnes de France," gouache and watercolour; one on six joined sheets of paper, and two others on four joined sheets, all with various minor additional strips at the edges (Photo: Sotheby's)

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Sotheby’s London Sale of Old Master and British Drawings [Sale L11040] on July 7th and 8th 2011 will present for sale a range of important drawings from the 16th to the 19th centuries. In addition to works by artists Hans Bol, Jacopo Ligozzi, Joseph Mallord William Turner and John Constable, a remarkable highlight of the sale is a set of five astonishingly original landscape transparencies From The ‘Campagnes de France’ by Louis Carrogis called Carmontelle (1717-1806), estimated at £350,000-500,000 [Lot 111]. Commenting on the forthcoming sale, Gregory Rubinstein, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Old Master Drawings Department said, “We are extremely pleased to be offering these remarkably rare transparencies which not only offer a contemporary account of the French aristocracy during the final years of the ancien régime, but also represent an important step in the journey towards the emergence of perhaps the most influential art form of the 20th century – the motion picture.”

These five landscape transparencies are extremely rare examples of a highly original, but today almost unknown, art form that Carmontelle himself invented, and with which he utterly captivated the French aristocracy during the final years of the ancien régime. Originally, these landscapes, painted on translucent paper, would have formed part of a single, hugely long panoramic landscape, which would have been rolled up, to be viewed by being wound through
a backlit viewing box, as a proto-cinematic theatrical event. As the scene unfolded, frame by frame, Carmontelle would provide an entertaining commentary, complete with a description of the events depicted and much imagined dialogue between the protagonists, as well as music and a variety of other sound effects. These panoramic transparencies were conceived as a continuous narrative of a single trip through the landscapes, parks and gardens of the areas on the outskirts of Paris where the artist’s aristocratic audience had their country retreats. Between 1783 and 1790, Carmontelle made nine such enormous transparencies, which he collectively titled Campagnes de France ornées de ses jardins pittoresques appelés jardins anglais. Of the initial series of nine transparencies dating from 1783 and 1792, it appears that none survive complete, and indeed relatively little survives at all. The largest surviving section, in a private collection, measures 20m in length, while the Musée Condé, Chantilly, has a section measuring 12.6m in length, and the Getty Museum, Los Angeles has another measuring 3.77m in length. The five sections now offered for sale are the only other recorded survivals from these crucial works.

Both in their technical originality and in their remarkable blurring of the boundaries between art, theatre and spectacle, these remarkable landscapes embody the essence of the spirit of the Enlightenment. They are also very moving documents of the last days of the French ancien régime, as they owe not only their subject matter but their very existence to the extraordinary privilege and leisure of the aristocracy in the years leading up to the Revolution. But their significance is not only in relation to their own time. The fact that so few examples of this remarkable precursor of the cinematic film have survived make the present works all the more significant. Over a period of twenty years Carmontelle made 12 rolls, of which only 1 or 2 remain. . . .

Art Market: Buyers Lose Their Taste for 18th-Century Art and Furniture?

Posted in Art Market by Freya Gowrley on August 9, 2011

This interesting article by Souren Melikian on the state of the art market appeared a couple of week ago in The New York Times (22 July 2011). Whether the vogue for the eighteenth century is in fact waning, it makes for a compelling read. The article also includes some lovely examples of decorative arts from the period (a full list of images from the Lyons Demesne auction, with sale prices, is available here) -FG

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Lyons Demesne House, County Kildare, Ireland, 1785-1797, acquired by Tony Ryan in 1996

Last week, 450 works ranging from furniture to paintings and sculpture that had adorned Lyons Demesne, the Irish Georgian house restored at vast expense by the late Tony Ryan, who founded Ryanair, were dispersed at Christie’s to great fanfare [Sale 8012].

The fine catalog did justice to the mansion in County Kildare designed in 1797 by Oliver Grace for the wealthy businessman Nicholas Lawless. The son of a rich Dublin draper, Lawless further expanded his financial position by marrying the heiress of a brewer, Margaret Browne, and was made a peer. As the 1st Baron Cloncurry, Lawless acknowledged this costly promotion by writing to the Viceroy: “If I have obtained any honours, they have cost me their full value.”

His son Valentine was more pugnacious. He joined the Society of United Irishmen set up in 1791 to fight against the Act of Union with Great Britain and was incarcerated in the Tower of London following the 1798 uprising but was released in 1801, the year of the Act of Union. Whereupon, the 2nd Baron Cloncurry redirected his energy toward the embellishment of Lyons Demesne and embarked on a wild art-buying spree in Italy. Among his purchases were the granite columns from the Golden House of Nero, which had been re-employed in the Palazzo Farnese and now support the portico at Lyons.

Past history fired up Mr. Ryan. Having saved the grand mansion from ruin in the most ambitious program of restoration ever undertaken privately in Irish history, according to Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd, who tells the story in “Great Houses of Ireland,” the businessman proceeded to furnish it at top speed. Christie’s made the most of the Lyons Demesne motif — house sales traditionally gave furniture and other objects a halo that substantially enhanced their commercial value.

While the July 14 sale went remarkably well, with 90 percent of the lots finding takers, it also underlined the decline of the traditional furniture and decorations beloved by members of the Western upper class until the late 20th century. Good 18th-century furniture that does not belong in the superlative museum category did not fare well. . . .

Read the rest of the article here»

Call for Papers: The Florida State Graduate Symposium

Posted in Calls for Papers, graduate students by Editor on August 9, 2011

The Florida State University Art History Graduate Symposium
Tallahassee, 4-5 November 2011

Proposals due by 29 August 2011

Keynote Speaker: John T. Paoletti, Kenan Professor of the Humanities, Emeritus and Professor of Art History, Wesleyan University

The Art History faculty and graduate students of The Florida State University invite students working toward an MA or a PhD to submit abstracts of papers for presentation at the 29th Annual Art History Graduate Student Symposium. Paper sessions will begin on Friday afternoon, November 4, and continue through Saturday, November 5, with each paper followed by critical discussion. Symposium papers may come from any area of the history of art and architecture. Papers will then be considered for inclusion in Athanor, a nationally-distributed journal published by the Department of Art History and the FSU College of Visual Arts, Theatre & Dance.

The deadline for receipt of abstracts (maximum 500 words) is 29 August 2011. Please indicate the title of the talk, graduate level, and whether the subject originated in thesis or dissertation research. Send the abstract either as a printout or an email attachment to: Dr. Lynn Jones, Symposium Coordinator, lajones@fsu.edu.

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