Exhibition | Eighteenth-Century Pastels

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on August 30, 2013

Now on view at The Met:

Eighteenth-Century Pastels
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2 August — 29 December 2013

nedetto Luti (Italian, Florence 1666–1724 Rome). Study of a Boy in a Blue Jacket, 1717. Pastel and chalk on blue laid paper, laid down on paste paper. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gwynne Andrews Fund, 2007 (2007.360)

Benedetto Luti, Study of a Boy in a Blue Jacket, 1717. Pastel and chalk on blue laid paper, laid down on paste paper (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

With the 1929 bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, the Metropolitan Museum acquired its first pastels—about twenty nineteenth-century works by Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, and Édouard Manet. For forty years, they were shown with our European and American paintings. It was not until 1956 that we were bequeathed a pastel by Jean Pillement (1728–1808). Between 1961 and 1975 we acquired a small group of works by John Russell (1745–1806), and there the matter stood until 2002, when the Metropolitan bought a pastel by the Venetian artist Rosalba Carriera (1673–1757). Since then we have purchased nearly a dozen others by Italian, French, British, German, and Danish artists. Most are portraits, exhibited here with two vivid seascapes by Pillement from a private collection. Pastels are made from powdery substances that are fragile and subject to fading. In accordance with modern museum practice, they are exhibited in very low light or rotated to ensure their long-term preservation. This display is therefore a temporary extension of the new installation in the adjoining galleries for European Old Master paintings.

Described by the great Salon critic and encyclopedist Dennis Diderot as no more than dust, pastel owes it distinctive velvety quality to its powdery surface, which reflects diffuse scattered light. Consisting of finely ground pigment and a white mineral extender moistened with a minute quantity of binder (such as oatmeal whey, mineral spirits, and gum tragacanth) rolled into sticks of color, pastels are made in a progression of tints and shades. Pastelists kept hundreds of such crayons on hand. The popularity of pastel—especially for portraiture—swept across Europe and Britain in the eighteenth century. Unlike today, such compositions were regarded as paintings. They were executed in vibrant colors on paper mounted on a wood strainer, elaborately framed with costly glass and on an intimate scale that suited the refined living spaces of the aristocracy and the haute bourgeoisie. These works have retained their original brilliance because the pastel medium does not contain resins and the surfaces of works in pastel were never varnished and rarely fixed, thereby precluding the darkening or yellowing that so often alters the hues of paintings in oil.

New Book | Concrete: From Archeology to Invention, 1700–1769

Posted in books by Editor on August 30, 2013

Distributed by Routledge:

Roberto Gargiani, Concrete: From Archeology to Invention, 1700–1769 (Lausanne: EPFL Press, 2013), 404 pages, ISBN: 978-0415833462, $105.

978-2-940222-64-3_largeThe reemergence in the early eighteenth century of the technology and use of concrete provide the starting point for this first volume of the Treatise on Concrete. In this book are described and analyzed, for the first time, the various contributions that led to the rediscovery of concrete made by the specialists of the period, from chemists to volcanologists; from engineers to architects and construction workers; from inventors to archaeologists and even men of letters.

The book traces the various criteria for concrete production using local materials, from hydraulic lime to pozzolana and trass, as well as how the technique of casting concrete in formwork developed from construction-site practices that had survived locally from the times of ancient Rome. The subjects of the book include the transport of Roman pozzolana with which Italian, French, English or Danish engineers built grandiose offshore concrete structures; the genealogy of techniques for manufacturing wood formwork for foundations at sea, in rivers and above ground; the description of the various formwork systems invented to pour concrete in water; the research conducted by chemists on lime and pozzolana that led to the development of concrete; the invention of artificial stone, obtained using various types of cement; and the series of fantastic archaeological findings about the concrete structures of antiquity, which, even if sometimes baseless, nevertheless helped build confidence that this material could be invented. Finally, several great personalities in the history of architecture, such as Piranesi or Soufflot, are presented in a new light and are shown to be vital players in the affirmation of concrete in the eighteenth century.

Thus emerges the first entry of a new history of concrete, one that will provide the essential principles needed to understand how the manufacturing methods discovered between the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century emerged and led to the production of this mythical material. This new history of concrete is clearly of present-day interest, specifically in the context of recent research which aims to encourage concrete production using local materials, including volcanic constituents such as pozzolana – exactly as it was fabricated during the eighteenth century.

Roberto Gargiani obtained his degree at the University of Architecture in Florence in 1983 and completed his Ph.D. on the history of architecture and urbanism in 1992. He has taught the history of architecture in Florence, Rouen, Paris, Venice and Rome. He is now Professor of history of architecture and construction at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).


1. Fantastic archaeology and artificial stones
2. Pozzolana, trass and lime for hydraulic construction
3. Major hydraulic works of the 1730s and 1740s
4. Apologia of Roman construction, from Soufflot to Piranesi to Winckelmann
5. Caissons and hydraulic mortars in the 1750s
6. Pozzolanas and new cement compounds, from Cronstedt to Loriot
7. Cement works in ports