March 2014 Issue of RIHA Journal

Posted in journal articles by Editor on March 28, 2014

The latest issue of RIHA Journal, the open access journal of the International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art (RIHA), addresses the theme “When Art History Meets Design History.” Here are the eighteenth-century offerings:

Katie Scott, “Persuasion: Nicolas Pineau’s Designs on the Social,” RIHA Journal (March 2014).

This essay offers a Latourian account of the wood sculptor Nicolas Pineau’s design process via a reading of Jean-François Bastide’s [1758] novella La petite maison. It argues that the conventional form assumed by his drawings or ‘inscriptions’—the indications of scale, the delineation of options, the signatures and marginal notes—can be read as traces of seduction that helped ‘translate’ potential patrons to a taste for Rococo. The essay further suggests that the activation of the taste at the point of commission was kept alive in the designs executed by the bi-modal asymmetry that is characteristic of the goût pittoresque because its exercise was considered a mark of refinement.

Matthew Craske, “Model Making and Anti-Competitive Practices in the Late Eighteenth-Century London Sculpture Trade,” RIHA Journal (March 2014).

This article concerns the generation of anti-competitive practices, and the associated discontents, that rose to the fore in the London sculpture trade in the late eighteenth century (1770–1799). It charts the business strategies and technical procedures of the most economically successful practitioners, whose workshops had some of the characteristics of manufactories, and whose critics accused them of conducting a “monopoly” trade. Small-scale practitioners lost out in the competition for great public contracts on account of their design processes and their inability to represent any manifestation of “establishment.” A combination of three factors increased the gap between a handful of powerful “manufacturers” and the rest of the trade: the foundation of the Royal Academy, shifts in the ways designs were evaluated, and a growing number of very lucrative contracts for public sculpture. I conclude that such were the discontents within the London trade that by the 1790s, there was a marked tendency for practitioners who were not manufacturers to be attracted to democratic political movements, to the Wilkite call for liberty and the rise of civic radicalism in the merchant population of London.

Anne Puetz, “Drawing from Fancy: The Intersection of Art and Design in Mid-Eighteenth-Century London,” RIHA Journal (March 2014).

This paper attempts to bring the world of mid-eighteenth-century British design into fruitful conversation with contemporary art theory and practice. Taking the neighbourhood and milieu of the St Martin’s Lane area in London as a starting point, I investigate connections between British “rococo” design and William Hogarth’s Analysis of Beauty in terms of shared formal values and contemporary implications of “modernity.” I argue for a mutual indebtedness rather than “art” directing “design.”

Symposium | The Disciplined Past: The Study of the Middle East

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on March 28, 2014

While I’m not sure how much eighteenth-century content to expect from the papers, the issues of periodization and the implications of how we connect (or disconnect) historical periods strike me as crucial eighteenth-century problems with present-day stakes for exploring a global eighteenth century. -CH

From Harvard’s Mahindra Humanities Center:

The Disciplined Past: Critical Reflections on the Study of the Middle East
Mahindra Humanities Center, Harvard University, 4–5 April 2014

Registration due by 3 April 2014

Organized by Mirjam Brusius

The symposium aims to reassess the study and the representation of the Middle East in scholarship and museums today. Studying the Middle East in the current Western academic and museological discourse entails encountering a history of dichotomies and contradictions. A manifest example, both physically and metaphorically, is provided by a visit to some art museums in the Western world: while, for example, art from ancient Mesopotamia—which occupied the same space as much of modern day Iraq, Syria and Iran—is often presented in direct proximity to objects deeply embedded in the Western canon, such as Classical Greek sculpture, objects from the very same region that derive from after the coming of Islam are often separated from their more ancient geographical counterparts, for instance in Islamic Art departments.

The epistemological consequence has been denounced before: this type of taxonomy creates a narrative of the Middle East that suggests a period of decline from the seventh century A.D. onwards, while prevailing European narratives link their historical present to mythical beginnings in the Middle East via the notions of a classical Graeco-Roman Antiquity. These canonical ideas have been shaped in Western European readings and injected into notions of progress and decline, into the organization of historical time, and scholarly disciplines themselves. They do so with restricted notions of key concepts in history of science, such as ‘origin’ and ‘discovery’, which only account for a single and teleological narrative rather than for dynamic flows of exchange between spaces and a plurality of accounts. What counts as canonical in Western traditions and what is subject to alienation is thus a temporal rather than geographical dichotomy.

The recent restructuring of some museum spaces reflects discomfort with this status quo, though not always in favour of a more even and unifying approach. The ‘ethnologization’ of Islam still pushes the Middle East to the margins, while the ‘religionization’ of the Middle East often does the same in academic contexts. Often they also run the risk of presenting an alternative orientalist trope: that of the ‘eternal, unchanging East’. Even though critical voices have critiqued these legacies of formerly colonial structures in recent decades, the ancient Near East and the modern Middle East remain neatly separated from another. Archaeology as a mediating discipline connecting the present with the past is both a perpetrator and victim of this discourse but its role in this discourse has not yet been fully explored in spite (or because) of its political power.

Finally, the naming of university departments throughout the world tells a story of its own: How religious does the Middle East have to be in order to be studied as the “science of Islam” (Islamwissenschaft)? How universal to be simply “oriental”? How ancient does the Near East have to be in order to be “Near”? How ancient Western Asia in order to be “Western”? How modern the Middle East, in order to be in the “Middle”? How much in the middle does the East have to be in order to be “modern”? The symposium seeks to bring historians of the modern Middle East, scholars of the ancient Near East, Egypt and Western Asia, archaeologists, anthropologists, historians of science and of archaeology, as well as historians of Islamic and Western art in dialogue with one another to assess the current states of affair.

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F R I D A Y ,  4  A P R I L  2 0 1 4

2.00  Introduction, Mirjam Brusius (Harvard University)

2.30  Heritage and Museums
• Alexander Nagel (Smithonian Institution): The Order of Things According to Washington DC: Reading Middle Eastern Materials in the Smithsonian Institution
• Ian Straughn (Brown University): On Heritage Crusades and other Cultural Rescue Missions in the Middle East
• Melania Savino (KHI Florenz): Ancient Near Eastern Antiquities in the Italian Museums: Travels, Collections, Displays

4.30  In discussion: Section participants with Irene Winter (commentator, Harvard University) and Eleanor Robson (University College London)

S A T U R D A Y ,  5  A P R I L  2 0 1 4

9.00  Ruptures and Turning Points
• Avinoam Shalem (Columbia University): Troubling Monochronic Time: Revisiting the Myth of the ‘Origin’ of Islamic art
• Katharine Park (Harvard University): Teaching and Writing across Regional Boundaries: A History of Arabic and Latin Science

10.00  Coffee break

10.30  In discussion: Section participants with Roy Mottahedeh and Chad Kia (Harvard University)

12.00  Lunch break

1.00  Empire and Knowledge
• Erin Hyde Nolan (Boston University): Ottomans Abroad: The Translation and Circulation of Nineteenth-Century Portrait Photography from Istanbul to Europe and the United States
• Daniela Helbig (University of Sydney): Whose Wonderland? Aviation and Aerial Archaeology in Syria and Lebanon under the French Mandate

2.00  In discussion: Section participants with Marwa Elshakry (commentator, Columbia University) and Adam Mestyan (Harvard University).


Exhibition | Neapolitan Drawings

Posted in catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on March 28, 2014

As noted at ArtDaily (25 March 2014) . . .

Dessins Napolitain / Neapolitan Drawings
Marty de Cambiaire, Paris, 25 March — 10 April 2014


Filippo Falciatore (actif à Naples 1718–1768),
Térée pourchassant Procné et Philomèle

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Marty de Cambiaire’s seventh show takes place in their offices, located on 16 place Vendôme, from 25 March to 4 April 2014. It focuses on a group of forty Neapolitan and Sicilian drawings dating from the 16th to the 18th century. A bilingual exhibition catalogue has been published, similar to their previous catalogues (which can be downloaded from their website). Given the scarcity of the literature on the subject, this publication provides fresh scholarship on a field still relatively unknown to the public as well as connoisseurs. There are very few Neapolitan drawings in public collections. They are equally rare far on the market. Therefore several years were required to build up a coherent group intended to illustrate 350 years of graphic production in Naples and Sicily. The ultimate goal of this venture, quite unprecedented in the old master drawing market, is to make a significant scientific contribution to the field.

Neapolitan drawing has long been a neglected research area. A few sporadic shows—some of which quite recent—have confirmed art historians’ strong interest in an area which remains largely unexplored. There is thus ample room for fascinating discoveries. The Neapolitan school (which includes the Sicilian school) is largely underrepresented in museums. Nor is it clearly identified as a distinct school, especially in comparison with other Italian schools such as the Florentine, Bolognese, Roman or Venetian ones. The Neapolitan school gives us the opportunity to examine draughtsmanship in its various aspects as an active practice, apprehended as a working method and not just as an intellectual concept destined to confer a social status to artists. Consequently their intention is to showcase the specificities of the Neapolitan school, through a group of 40 drawings dating between 1550 and 1800.

The prime concern in gathering them has been to focus on quality, condition and scholarly interest. It turned out to be a challenging venture given the traditional scarcity of Neapolitan drawings on the market. The gallery has decided to bring together artists such as Giordano and Solimena, already well-researched and known from the public, with other artists whose names are not so familiar but who were essential in the genesis of this school. It seemed equally important to illustrate the diversity of: the techniques used; the subjects illustrated; and the purpose of these drawings, which could be preparatory studies either for religious altarpieces or for decorative compositions, for book frontispieces or decorative pieces, or even intended as works of art per se.

The show explores successive periods in the Neapolitan and Sicilian graphic production. The earliest sheet presented is by a rare and precious artist, Leonardo Castellano (circa 1544–1588). This is complemented by two other 16th-century drawings by Francesco Curia (1538–1610), while Belisario Corenzio (circa 1558–1646) takes us into the 17th century. There big names such as Luca Giordano, Matia Preti and Salvator Rosa feature, alongside with lesser-known artists who deserve a reappraisal, including Cesare and Francesco Fracanzano, Battistello Carraciolo. and Aniello Falcone. Francesco Solimena and his pupils, Francesco De Mura, Francesco Celebrano, Giacopo Cestaro, Lorenzo de Caro and Campora are represented with several sheets which demonstrate how profoundly the master renewed the field of decorative painting. Solimena also revived the creative process itself, passing down to his pupils a method on which they firmly grounded their approach and developed their own talent. The final drawing in the collection’s chronology is a large sheet by Giuseppe Camarrano, a neoclassical artist rarely seen on the market. It illustrates the evolution of Neapolitan art towards a more European neo-classical taste.

One of the key criteria in the selection process was the condition of each drawing. However it is important to bear in mind that Neapolitan artists viewed their drawings not only as a mental projection but also as a hands-on device: assembled and pasted together, some sheets were thus pricked for transfer, while others bear the marks of working life in the studio. This show presents a varied and representative overview of the Neapolitan school. New attributions will be put forward, which will shed new light on certain artists. The gallery is thus hoping to provide a panorama of a rich, distinct graphic field.

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