Reviewed | Charlotte Yeldham’s ‘Maria Spilsbury’

Posted in books, reviews by Editor on April 7, 2012

Recently added to caa.reviews:

Charlotte Yeldham, Maria Spilsbury (1776–1820): Artist and Evangelical (Burlington: Ashgate, 2010). 230 pages, ISBN: 9780754669913, $125.

Reviewed by Jonathan Rinck, Spring Arbor University; posted 22 March 2012.

In her short biographical work ‘Father and Daughter: Jonathan and Maria Spilsbury’ (London: Epworth, 1952), Ruth Young, a descendant of Maria Spilsbury (Spilsbury-Taylor, after her marriage in 1808), recounts a delightful anecdote in which the future King George IV visited Spilsbury’s studio on St. George’s Row, London. Impatient with how slowly work was progressing on his commission which, to his judgment, seemed complete, he exclaimed, ‘Really, Mrs. Taylor, I swear that you can do no more to that! You’ve finished it and a damned good picture it is’. Unconvinced, Spilsbury sought a second opinion from her maid. Upon close inspection, the maid astutely pointed out that, distressingly, the woman sewing in the painting still lacked a thimble. At this, the exasperated prince, Young writes, chased the maid out of the room, ‘her cap-strings flying’ (32). Any other artist might have obligingly yielded to the prince, but such was Spilsbury’s notoriety that visits from the Prince Regent, her chief patron, were merely commonplace.

In spite of her success and popularity, astonishingly little scholarly attention has been given to Spilsbury. Redressing this problem, Charlotte Yeldham’s ‘Maria Spilsbury (1776–1820): Artist and Evangelical’ fills a void that has remained embarrassingly vacant for too long. Additionally, Yeldham offers special attention to the influence of the Evangelical faith upon Spilsbury’s art, a topic which has also been largely ignored, not merely in the life of Spilsbury, but in the larger context of late eighteenth-century artists in general. On both fronts, this book will prove to be an invaluable and authoritative contribution to Spilsbury scholarship.

In the introduction, Yeldham writes that the intent of her book is to give attention to an artist who exhibited at the Royal Academy at the age of fifteen, was exhibited at the British Institution, is represented in public and private collections in England, Ireland, America, Australia, and New Zealand, and frequently present in auction houses, yet of whom very little is known . . .

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

Reviewed | ‘The Culture of Architecture in Enlightenment Rome’

Posted in books by Editor on April 7, 2012

Recently added to caa.reviews:

Heather Hyde Minor, The Culture of Architecture in Enlightenment Rome, Buildings, Landscapes, and Societies, vol. 6 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010), 312 pages, ISBN: 9780271035642, $95.

Reviewed by Richard Wittman, University of California at Santa Barbara; posted 22 March 2012.

The most famous works of eighteenth-century Roman architecture and urbanism, such as the Trevi Fountain or the Spanish Steps, have always seemed more at home at the end of histories of Baroque architecture than at the start of histories of modern architecture; there, one is more likely to encounter Laugier’s hut or Soufflot’s Sainte-Geneviève. The idea that the architectural initiative passed from Rome to the north sometime around 1700 extends back to the eighteenth century itself, and was rarely questioned in the century-long tradition of formalist architectural history inaugurated in the late nineteenth century. But while eighteenth-century Rome has had its apologists who complain that the quality of its architectural output is unfairly overlooked, it was the rise of culturally and socially oriented models of architectural history that really gave eighteenth-century Rome its second chance. These approaches were less concerned with aesthetic distinction or innovation than with interpreting architecture in relation to broader historical transformations. True, Rome had only a tenuous connection to the new master narratives of eighteenth-century scholarship, which center on that world-changing cocktail of Enlightenment ideas mixed with growing middle-class participation in public culture. (Rome had a negligible productive economy, and therefore lacked a bourgeoisie comparable to those of northern cities.) But this is not to say that the new ideas of the century had no impact in the Eternal City. On the contrary; but the impact came strictly within the politically stable limits of clerical culture, where such ideas inspired reformers hoping to re-arm the Church in its battle against the decline of Catholic influence. And it has been by studying how architecture and planning were drawn into these debates—debates local in scope but international in significance—that recent scholars have unlocked the rich interest of Roman architectural culture during this period. Heather Hyde Minor’s informative, wide-ranging, and deeply researched new book follows squarely in that path. . .

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

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