Exhibition: Microscopes from the Golub Collection

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on December 31, 2011

Eighteenth-century news from an airport press release? A first for everything. This exhibition of sixty microscopes looks like a fine way to pass an hour or two during a layover. From the San Francisco Airport:

A World Examined: Microscopes from the Age of Enlightenment to the Twentieth Century
SFO Museum, San Francisco International Airport, 24 December 2011 —  24 June 2012

Curated by Steven Ruzin

George Adams, detail of New Universal Microscope, ca. 1746
(The Golub Collection, University of California, Berkeley)

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The microscope is a relatively young invention. Although magnifiers and “burning glasses” are referenced in ancient Chinese texts and in the first-century CE writings of Roman philosophers, the use of an optical instrument for observing microscopic specimens dates only to the sixteenth century when European scientists first used lenses to magnify objects. Englishman Robert Hooke, one of the most important scientists of his age, modified the compound microscope in the mid-seventeenth century and documented his observations in vivid descriptions and extraordinary copper-plate illustrations of dozens of minuscule phenomena—animal, vegetable, mineral, even man-made objects such as the point of a needle or a razor’s edge. His work stands as a remarkable testament to the keen and curious minds operating at the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment.

John Marshall, Great Double Microscope, London, 1710. Wood, brass, cardboard, leather, and gilt (The Golub Collection, University of California, Berkeley)

From mid-seventeenth-century simple microscopes to the modern compound optical devices by German makers during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, these are the instruments that revealed the long-held secrets of the natural world—the existence of microorganisms, the structure of biological cells, and the composition and operation of a variety of previously unseen life forms. Nearly 350 years after Robert Hooke introduced a “newly visible world,” we continue to rely on the microscope in our eternal quest to better understand the world we inhabit and the challenges posed by that which remains invisible to the unaided eye.

A World Examined: Microscopes from the Age of Enlightenment to the Twentieth Century is located pre-security in the International Terminal Main Hall Departures Lobby, San Francisco International Airport. The exhibition is on view, free of charge, to all Airport visitors from December 24, 2011 to June 24, 2012.

This exhibition was guest curated by Steven Ruzin, Ph.D., Director of the CNR Biological Imaging Facility and Curator of The Golub Collection at the University of California, Berkeley. A selection of images are available here»

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SFO Museum was established by the Airport Commission in 1980 for the purposes of humanizing the Airport environment, providing visibility for the unique cultural life of San Francisco, and providing educational services for the traveling public. The Museum has been accredited by the American Association of Museums since 1999, and has the distinction of being the only accredited museum in an airport. Today, SFO Museum features approximately twenty galleries throughout the Airport terminals displaying a rotating schedule of art, history, science, and cultural exhibitions, as well as the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum, a permanent collection dedicated to the history of commercial aviation.

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More information on the exhibition, including a history of the formation of the collection and photographs of the installation at SFO Museum, are available via The Golub Collection website.

Conference: Pope Benedict XIV

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on December 30, 2011

The Enlightenment Pope: Benedict XIV (1675-1758)
St. Louis, 30 April — 2 May 2012

Pierre Subleyras, "Benedictus XIV" (Château de Versailles), photo from Wikimedia Commons

The conference The Enlightenment Pope: Benedict XIV (1675-1758), hosted by Saint Louis University, Washington University and the Missouri History Museum, will bring together for the first time in the United States eminent international scholars expert in Pope Benedict XIV’s lifework and papacy. During a pontificate of eighteen years, Benedict advanced experimental and medical science, women’s authority in academic institutions, urbanism, museology, and the arts and culture to a remarkable degree.

One of the symposium’s chief goals is to help integrate ecclesiastical issues in general and the accomplishments of Benedict XIV in particular into the broader stream of research on the European Enlightenment. General themes of the conference include: the question of the compatibility of faith and science, women’s place in the realm of sanctity and the public sphere, the mission of the Church in the New World, church doctrine and liturgical reforms, and papal patronage of the arts.

More information, including a complete conference program, is
available here»

Reviewed: Trio of Books on the Dilettanti and Antiquarianism

Posted in books, catalogues, reviews by Editor on December 29, 2011

Recently added to caa.reviews:

Bruce Redford, Dilettanti: The Antic and the Antique in Eighteenth-Century England, exhibition catalogue (Los Angeles: Getty Trust Publications, 2008), 232 pages, ISBN: 9780892369249, $49.95.

Ilaria Bignamini and Clare Hornsby, Digging and Dealing in Eighteenth-Century Rome, 2 volumes (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 622 pages, ISBN: 9780300160437, $85.

Jason M. Kelly, The Society of Dilettanti: Archaeology and Identity in the British Enlightenment (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 366 pages, ISBN: 9780300152197, $75.

Reviewed by Susan Dixon, University of Tulsa; posted 1 December 2011.

These three recent books explore an eighteenth-century British engagement with classical archaeology during a time when the practice was transforming from an early modern antiquarianism into a modern scientific discipline. Two of the books are monographic studies of the Society of the Dilettanti, an organization that became known for its support of unprecedented archaeological activity in Greece, while a third outlines how British subjects, some of whom were Dilettanti, undertook archaeological excavations on Italian soil and refurbished, sold, and bought the antiquities found there. In some measure, all the authors note this engagement as integral to shaping British cultural identity in the eighteenth century, and in this way add to robust scholarship on the issue. . . .

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

Exhibition: Chess Sets from the Past

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on December 24, 2011

Thanks to all of you who have helped make 2011 such a good year for Enfilade. I’m taking a few days off, but postings will resume soon. Happy holidays, and I hope the next few days bring plenty of tasty food, some extra sleep, time with friends and family, and maybe even some games around a table. -CH

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From the World Chess Hall of Fame:

Chess Masterpieces: Highlights from the Dr. George and Vivian Dean Collection
World Chess Hall of Fame, St Louis, 9 September 2011 — 12 February 2012

John Style Chess Set, India
Late 18th century, polychromed ivory

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Chess Masterpieces: Highlights from the Dr. George and Vivian Dean Collection celebrates the Deans’ 50th year of collecting together and uses outstanding selected works to trace the development of the game of chess and the design of fine chess sets from the tenth to the early twentieth century. Sets come from Austria, Cambodia, China, England, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Kashmir, Morocco, Persia, Russia, Syria, and Turkey. Among the works on display are ones owned or commissioned by Catherine the Great, Napoleon, Czar Nicolas II, and the British royal family.

Chess has been called ‘The Royal Game’ not only because it originated in such royal courts but also because, across all eras and cultures, chess sets have been created from gold, silver, ivory, gemstones, crystal, and other opulent materials by the world’s finest craftsmen. The world-renowned Fabergé, Meissen, and Wedgewood workshops and many others were eager to join ranks with generations of elite anonymous craftsmen who worked for their ruler, church, or wealthy civil patrons to craft chess sets recognized as consummate works of art.

Just as the world’s finest craftsmen devised ever-more ingenious chess set designs, chess players plotted and planned ever-more innovative and elegant styles of play. Hence, each chess set in this exhibition is shown in a famous middle game or problem position from approximately the same timeframe and locale as the set. This enables one to view the pieces as they were intended to be viewed – in play, with the visual beauties of the designs complimented by the strategic brilliancies of the games. Hopefully, looking at pieces in the middle of a period game will bring one a step closer to the original experience of both the chess set and chess play of the time. These games were researched by curator Larry List with the help of chess scholar Myron Samsin of the Ken Whyld Association and noted chess teacher and author, Fred Wilson.

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Information on the John style set pictured above, from the exhibition checklist:

The theme of this style set is the opposition of native Indian troops to the John Company soldiers (often British mercenaries). These soldiers enforced the English control of Indian provinces and guarded the lucrative trade of the British East India Company. Such highly detailed decorative sets were made for display, not play. They were bought from skilled carvers in Berhampur by the British soldiers and traders as mementoes of their time in India serving the Crown. This prime example of the figurative polychromed designs uses the earliest Indian chess color scheme— red vs. green, with red-suited Brits facing off with green-clothed Indians.

From the December 2011 Issue of ‘Apollo Magazine’

Posted in journal articles by Editor on December 23, 2011

From Apollo Magazine:

Michael Burrell, “Reynolds and Leonardo,” Apollo Magazine (December 2011)

Joshua Reynolds, "The Revd Laurence Sterne," 1760 (London: National Portrait Gallery)

Among the highlights of the National Gallery’s current exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci is his Last Supper [a near-contemporary, full-scale copy on loan from the Royal Academy]. The fresco greatly influenced Sir Joshua Reynolds’ Society of Dilettanti paintings, and is one of nine new examples of Reynolds’ borrowing from the master, revealed here for the first time.

The borrowings of the 18th-century painter Sir Joshua Reynolds are the subject of fascination and much discussion. One painting by Reynolds, The Revd Laurence Sterne, has already been identified as derived from a Studio of Leonardo da Vinci painting. This article proposes other works by Reynolds that are derived from or influenced by Leonardo: a Leonardo drawing in the Ashmolean; a painting that was at the time in the Palazzo Barberini and attributed to Leonardo or a follower; and, intriguingly, Leonardo’s Last Supper. . . .

The full article is available here»

Submissions for the Oscar Kenshur Book Prize

Posted in books by Editor on December 22, 2011

Oscar Kenshur Book Prize
Applications due by 31 January 2012

The Center for Eighteenth-Century Studies at Indiana University is pleased to announce its annual book prize, to be awarded for an outstanding monograph of interest to eighteenth-century scholars working in a range of disciplines. The prize honors the work of Oscar Kenshur, professor emeritus of comparative literature at Indiana University, a dix-huitièmiste par excellence, and one of the founding members of the Center.

Submissions in English from any discipline are welcome; authors can submit their work irrespective of citizenship. Multi-authored collections of essays and translations, as well as books by members of the Indiana-University-Bloomington faculty, are not eligible. The Kenshur prize of $1000 will be awarded together with an invitation to the Center for Eighteenth-Century Studies for a workshop dedicated to the winning book, in which several colleagues will discuss the book from different disciplinary perspectives. The Center will cover the author’s expenses to attend this event.

To be eligible for this year’s competition, a book must carry a 2011 copyright date. Submissions can be made by the publisher or the author: three copies must be received at the ASECS office by the 31st of January 2012. Please send the books (clearly marked for Kenshur Prize) to ASECS, 2598 Reynolda Rd., Suite C, Winston-Salem, NC 27106. For further inquiries please contact Professor Mary Favret, Director of the Center for Eighteenth-Century Studies at Indiana University (email favretm@indiana.edu).

Reviewed: Meredith Martin’s ‘Dairy Queens’

Posted in books, reviews by Editor on December 21, 2011

Recently added to caa.reviews:

Meredith Martin, Dairy Queens: The Politics of Pastoral Architecture from Catherine de’ Medici to Marie-Antoinette, Harvard Historical Studies, vol. 176 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011), 336 pages, ISBN: 9780674048997, $45.

Reviewed by Jean-François Bédard; posted 3 November 2011.

Among the most fanciful objects commissioned by the French monarchy is a pair of Sèvres porcelain pails designed for Marie-Antoinette’s pleasure dairy at the Château de Rambouillet. They are shaped like tinettes—wooden buckets used on ordinary dairy farms for making fresh cheese—and painted with wood grain to imitate their rustic models. Like Marie-Antoinette’s mock hamlet at Trianon, the Rambouillet pails are outlandish inventions of the pastoral movement in literature and art, which celebrated naturalness with contrived theatricality. As the ill-fated monarch so cruelly experienced, bourgeois sensibilities soon lashed out at this noble ostentation. To pre-Revolutionary critics of the society of orders, a queen masquerading as a dairy maid in a luxurious simulated farm was particularly odious. Marie-Antoinette’s pastoral persona triggered venomous accusations of social irresponsibility, political usurpation, and even sexual deviance that contributed to her downfall and still taint her reputation.

The pastoral has not always elicited such heated reactions. In her amusingly titled book, Meredith Martin sets out to rehabilitate this courtly art form. Looking beyond the alleged frivolity of pastoral art and architecture, Martin emphasizes the crucial role they played in the social and political self-fashioning the French nobility, most notably the queens, forged for itself. Her discussion focuses on the pleasure dairy—known in French as the ‘laiterie d’agrément’, or ‘laiterie de propreté’, to distinguish it from the functioning dairy (laiterie de préparation). . . . Martin makes a convincing case for the importance of pleasure dairies as sites of empowerment for French noblewomen. . . .

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

Reviewed: ‘Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance’

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions, reviews by Editor on December 21, 2011

Recently added to caa.reviews:

Cassandra Albinson, Peter Funnell, and Lucy Peltz, eds., Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance, exhibition catalogue (New Haven and London: Yale Center for British Art, National Portrait Gallery, London, and Yale University Press, 2011), 280 pages, ISBN: 9780300167184, $70.

Reviewed by Bruce Redford; posted 17 November 2011.

‘How various he is!’ Thomas Gainsborough’s tribute to Joshua Reynolds applies equally well to their successor in grand-manner portraiture. It is one of the signal achievements of ‘Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance’ that it removes any lingering traces of the negative stereotype: Lawrence the slick, formulaic sycophant who prostituted his gifts in the service of a decadent Regency elite. In its place this wide-ranging exhibition and thoughtful catalogue substitute a dynamic, probing, and inventive explorer of human psychology—one who is keenly attentive to the interplay of surface and depth, social mask and private self. Even Lawrence’s most public statements create a form of co-extensive space: not by breaking the picture plane, as in Caravaggio for instance, but by drawing the viewer into an
electric zone of intimacy. . . .

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

Happy Hanukkah

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on December 20, 2011

From The Jewish Museum:

An Artist Remembers: Hanukkah Lamps Selected by Maurice Sendak

The Jewish Museum, New York, 2 December 2011 — 29 January 2012

Hanukkah Lamp, Italy, 18th century (?), copper alloy, wood, and iron (New York: The Jewish Museum)

For this exhibition, the museum invited renowned artist and illustrator Maurice Sendak to choose a group of Hanukkah lamps from the collection. Sendak’s work is characterized by a push and pull between beauty and sorrow, light and darkness. His art is triggered by memories and is also their repository. The world he creates is both dangerous and healing, as he tries to deal with the trauma of the Holocaust, in which many members of his family perished.

When going through the museum’s collection, the sheer number and variety of lamps struck a nerve, underscoring Sendak’s deep, lifelong sense of loss at the destruction of the prewar world of his Eastern European Jewish parents. Having movingly evoked that world in his drawings for Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories (1966) and In Grandpa’s House (1985), he surprised himself by mostly avoiding its rich visual language when choosing lamps for this presentation. “I stayed away from everything elaborate. I kept looking for very plain, square ones, very severe looking,” he explained. “Their very simplicity reminded me of the Holocaust. And I thought it was inappropriate for me to be thinking of elaboration.”

The lamps Sendak finds most compelling and poignant are those that “go right to the heart,” whose “beauty is contained.” Yet his sense of humor is never far from the surface: as he made his choices he often free-associated, whimsically recalling old movies and Catskills family vacations. Above all, he is guided by his sensibility as an artist and author. He is drawn to simplicity of line, to a design “subservient to the basic idea of the piece,” and responds to the depth of emotion that emanates from a work itself or from the stories behind it. Concerned lest the past be forgotten, he hopes that young visitors to this exhibition will keep alive the memory of a vanished world.

Susan L. Braunstein and Claudia J. Nahson

Touro Synagogue — Newport, Rhode Island

Posted in on site by Editor on December 20, 2011

The November/December 2011 issue of Preservation highlights a dozen National Trust Historic sites, across the United States, from James Madison’s Montpelier (1797) in Virginia to the Cooper Molera Adobe (1823) in Monterey, California. One that caught my eye, in particular: the Touro Synagogue (1763) in Newport, Rhode Island. From Lauren Wasler’s article in Preservation:

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In 1658, 15 Jewish families whose ancestors had fled the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal arrived in Rhode Island by way of the West Indies. Settling in Newport, they established a close-knit community and founded a congregation in a colony already recognized for its religious tolerance. A century later, Isaac Touro became the congregation’s first spiritual leader and was part of the effort to build an elegant house of worship for the faithful.

Today, that synagogue endures atop a hill near the city harbor—a living monument to religious freedom. “This is both a historic site and a functional synagogue. It has two distinct purposes,” says Chuck Flippo, manager of Touro Synagogue’s visitors center. “Come in the afternoon and you’ll see it as a historic site with guided tours. Come back in the evening and it reverts to its other role—its primary role—as a synagogue.”

Touro, the oldest standing synagogue in the United States, remains virtually unaltered since it was completed and dedicated in 1763. Designed by Peter Harrison, a British American merchant, sea captain, and self-taught architect, the two-story Palladian structure accommodates the religious needs of a typical Jewish congregation (for example, the ark containing the sacred scrolls is positioned so that worshipers can pray facing Jerusalem), while also reflecting New Englanders’ preference for restraint. Twelve Ionic columns (one for each tribe of Israel) support a second-story gallery; Corinthian columns ringing the gallery support the domed ceiling. Declared a National Historic Site in 1946, the synagogue became a National Trust Historic Site in 2001. . . .

The full article is available here»

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