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)

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